Former Aztec High student sues district after 'malicious, public humiliation' in tossed sex abuse case
Felony molestation charges against AHS drama teacher were dropped by judge because of insufficient evidence
FARMINGTON — A former Aztec High School student and his family have filed a complaint against Aztec Municipal School District and three employees after a sex abuse case was dismissed against a teacher in 2016.
A 15-year-old student, identified as I.G. in court documents, accused Aztec High School drama teacher Shane Kirkland of sexual abuse in June 2016, according to The Daily Times archives. The two felony charges against Kirkland were discharged in September 2016 after a magistrate judge ruled there was insufficient evidence to charge the 22-year-old teacher.
The complaint — filed on Nov. 8 in Eleventh Judicial District Court by the student and his parents, who were all identified by their initials — states the family was “maliciously and publicly humiliated by” Kirkland, Aztec School District Superintendent Kirk Carpenter and Aztec High School secretary Kimberly Garcia over the course of several months in 2016.
The complaint seek seeks an unspecified amount for compensatory and punitive damages, as well as pre- and post-judgment interest awards, attorney’s fees and any other relief that the court finds appropriate. The complaint seeks awards for each of the three plaintiffs because of the “intentional misconduct, restlessness, willfulness, or callous indifference to (the) plaintiffs’ rights, or because these defendants’ conduct was motivated by malice, evil motive or intent.”
The civil complaint alleges that Kirkland groomed I.G. to be sexually abused, and that Kirkland’s “history of inappropriate social media postings (and) constant mixing of school and personal business” should have been recognized by Carpenter as an indicator of “illegal and immoral conduct with students.”
The student’s family also claims that Garcia “conspired to publicly intimidate and humiliate I.G. in an effort to protect Kirkland from his crimes.” The complaint states Garcia sent a text message to the school’s junior class president encouraging students to attend Kirkland’s preliminary hearing for the molestation charges in order to support Kirkland and intimidate I.G. The text included instructions “as to how to get an excuse from school to go to the preliminary hearing” in which the sex abuse charges would ultimately be thrown out.
Approximately two dozen students went to Aztec Magistrate Court for the preliminary hearing, according to The Daily Times archives, but the complaint states that the students “were so disruptive” that Judge Trudy Reed-Chase closed the hearing, with the exception of involved parties’ friends and family.
Carpenter said on Tuesday that Aztec High School investigated Garcia regarding encouraging students to attend the hearing and “took appropriate actions,” though he could not go into details because it is a personnel matter.
“In no way did she act as a school official” in encouraging students to attend the hearing, Carpenter said, adding “in no way, shape or form was there any direction from the school for her to do anything or send messages on behalf of the school.”
Carpenter said Garcia remains Aztec High School’s secretary and has worked for the district for nine years in various positions. Kirkland, who worked at Aztec High School for one school year, is no longer employed by Aztec School District.
Megan Petersen covers business and education for The Daily Times. Reach her at 505-564-4621 or firstname.lastname@example.org.