A New Mexico student will receive $294,600 in a legal settlement with his school district over injuries he suffered at the hands of his music teacher.
The boy and his parents, identified only by their initials, sued Tony E. Quintana “Sombrillo” Elementary School in November 2017 over an incident involving music teacher John Andrew Valdez, who was convicted two months earlier of three counts of assaulting students, the Santa Fe New Mexican reports.
The incident occurred in 2015, when Valdez punched the boy three times and dislocated his shoulder. Valdez also assaulted two other students around the same time.
The New Mexican reports:
“Defendant Valdez … kicked another male student in the shin and grabbed a third male student’s hair, pulling that student to the ground,” according to the complaint. Valdez shouted at the students “that they were ‘stupid’ and to ‘shut up,’ ” the lawsuit says.
The family also named Peter Engler, the elementary school’s former principal, in the complaint, saying the children reported the incident to him but he didn’t call police or contact parents.
“When the student arrived home from school that afternoon,” the complaint says, he had blood on his clothes, threw up and was “acting strangely and was unable to walk.” His parents took him to the hospital and medical staff made a report to police.
Valdez received 18 months of probation as part of a plea agreement on the criminal charges and was eventually fired by Española Public Schools. His state teaching certificate was also revoked for two years, according to the news site.
The incident wasn’t the teacher’s first run-in with the law.
State police investigated a complaint Valdez sexually assaulted a woman in 2008 when he allegedly pulled up her shirt and groped her thigh after the woman refused his sexual advances.
Valdez, who has worked in New Mexico schools since 1996, told police the groping was consensual and no charges were filed, the New Mexican reports.
“In 2011, when Valdez was a music teacher for the Española school district, the complaint says, state police investigated allegations that he had molested his 4-year-old granddaughter, but no charges were filed,” according to the news site.
“In 2012, the complaint says, Valdez was arrested and charged with battery after he grabbed his groin area and touched the breast of a cashier at a convenience store, then called the store to harass the woman.”
In December, the school district agreed to settle the lawsuit with the injured student for $475,000, with $180,000 going to the boy’s attorney and $294,600 set aside in a trust for the child.
The boy and his family were represented by Albuquerque attorney Carolyn Nichols, who previously secured a $21 million settlement with Espanola schools for victims of elementary school teacher Gary Gregor.
Gregor was recently sentenced to over 100 years in prison for molesting students.
In both Gregor’s and Valdes’ cases, “It shows there was an ongoing lack of carefully analyzing the backgrounds of people they were allowing to teach in their schools,” Nichols said.