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Judge tosses sex abuse case against teacher

Steve Garrison
stgarrison@daily-times.com

FARMINGTON — A magistrate judge ruled Thursday there was insufficient evidence to charge Aztec High School drama teacher Shane Kirkland with child sexual abuse.

A child sexual abuse charge against an Aztec High School teacher was dismissed Thursday.

Kirkland, 22, of Bloomfield, was charged in June with two counts of criminal sexual contact of a minor, a second-degree felony, on allegations he performed oral sex on a 15-year-old male student at his Bloomfield residence.

Those charges were discharged Thursday by Judge Trudy Reed-Chase after a preliminary examination hearing.

Kirkland's attorney, Mark Curnutt, said today about two dozen students attempted to attend the hearing to support Kirkland, but Reed-Chase emptied the courtroom, except for a limited number of the involved parties' family and friends.

Curnutt said Kirkland was placed on paid administrative leave after he was charged in the incident. He said Kirkland will now seek to be reinstated to his position as drama teacher.

Aztec Municipal School District Superintendent Kirk Carpenter confirmed today that Kirkland is on paid administrative leave, but declined to comment on Kirkland's employment with the district.

San Juan County Chief Deputy District Attorney Brent Capshaw said today the state may refile criminal charges against Kirkland once it receives DNA test results from forensic evidence obtained from Kirkland's residence.

The 15-year-old student told police he trimmed his pubic hair in Kirkland's bathroom before the alleged sexual encounter, and police collected several hairs from Kirkland's bathroom floor, according to an arrest warrant affidavit.

Capshaw also said it was inappropriate that the Aztec Municipal School District allowed students to leave school to attend the hearing.

"We are disappointed with what the school district had done to orchestrate students being at the hearing, rather than sitting in class," Capshaw said.

Carpenter denied that Aztec High School or the school district played a role in the students' attendance. Carpenter said students younger than 18 were allowed to leave the school with a parent's permission. He said 18-year-old students could leave without a parent's permission.

"The school wasn't associated with that in (any) shape, way or form," Carpenter said.

Steve Garrison covers crime and courts for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4644.