Posted at: 08/15/2014 8:57 PM
Updated at: 08/15/2014 10:19 PM
By: Ryan Luby, KOB Eyewitness News 4
ALBUQUERQUE -- A 13-year-old and her mother claim the Albuquerque Public Schools knew about a special education teacher's pattern of inappropriately touching students before he made sexual contact with her.
The mother and daughter are seeking compensatory damages for a case dating back to last school year.
Kenneth Jehle faces a felony charge of criminal sexual contact. He was arrested in April.
According to the lawsuit, the special education student, identified as "M.F.," said she and other students were waiting for Jehle to return to his portable classroom unit at Taft Middle School. When he arrived, she said he dropped lip gloss in her lap and slid his hand across her genitals. He reportedly laughed and walked away when the girl questioned him about it.
M.F. said Jehle began to behave strangely around her in February, according to court paperwork.
On one occasion, she said he cornered her and lightly slapped her stomach, her upper thigh and her buttocks.
On another occasion, M.F. said Jehle reached into her rear pants pocket, while she was sitting down, and pulled out her ringing cell phone.
"There's no question that being sexualized by your teacher at a young age changes your outlook," attorney Laura Schauer Ives said.
She's representing the girl and her family in a civil lawsuit that's now in federal court.
Schauer Ives said M.F. is still undergoing therapy.
"This young girl was betrayed, she is suffering the consequences of a very serious breach of trust, and she will continue to suffer those consequences and she needs to be compensated for that," Schauer Ives said.
According to court paperwork, Jehle has been the subject of numerous complaints at schools since 2002 - including Taft and Harrison Middle Schools, and Cottonwood Classical Preparatory School.
"APS appears to have been long on-notice that he was a danger to students," Schauer Ives said.
In one complaint in 2002, a student said Jehle threatened to break her arms. Although a school resource officer filed a police report, Jehle retained his teaching license and continued to teach.
Schauer Ives said one administrator in particular, the principal at Harrison who later became the executive director at Cottonwood, "had swept the allegations against Jehle under the rug."
"I think all principals - anybody in administration - needs to recognize that if ... students or parents come to the administration with concerns about how a teacher is touching them, that needs to be taken seriously the first time somebody mentions it," Schauer Ives said.
She expects more families to come forward in upcoming weeks.
An Albuquerque Public Schools spokesperson said the district does not comment on pending litigation.
Kenneth Jehle was released from jail after he posted a $50,000 cash-only bond.