Abusers in Our Midst...Again - Did Santa Fe Schools Shelter a Pedophile?
This week was an unfortunate reminder that Santa Fe schools have been a hotbed of educator sex abuse in recent years. The First Judicial District Attorney’s Office filed additional charges against Robert Apodaca, a former nurse/nurse-aide with Santa Fe Public Schools and Santo Nino Regional Catholic School, for his abuse of a minor Santa Fe student.
Lane + Linnenburger + Lane LLP has teamed with The King Law Firm to provide legal representation to the minor. Together, the firms are asking the questions that the media has not and demanding answers from officials with Santa Fe Public Schools and Santo Nino, both of whom employed Apodaca at various times over the past decade.
Paul Linnenburger, a partner here who has brought child sex cases against the Catholic Church and Santo Nino for similar sexual violence against minor schoolchildren, expressed exasperation at the failure of officials within Santa Fe Public Schools and the Catholic Church to protect children at school. “Abuse like this does not happen in a vacuum. These offenders tend to find employment where they have essentially unfettered access to vulnerable kids within an institution that effectively condones the behavior. We know the Church’s history,” he said, referring to Santo Nino and noting the Archdiocese of Santa Fe is facing nearly 400 claims for minor sex abuse in bankruptcy. Linnenburger lamented “[i]t looks like Santa Fe Public Schools created a very similar environment.”
Ian King of The King Law Firm, a former sex crimes prosecutor working with our attorneys, agrees. “People that harm children this way need two things to perpetrate these crimes. They need access to children who are vulnerable. And they need adults who should be accountable to fail in their duties, sometimes by actively ignoring warning signs.” Now that there are multiple victims over the course of years, questions must be answered. Who was involved in the failure to protect our children? How could this possibly be allowed to happen at the same time these same schools were watching former educators head to prison for childhood sexual abuse?
Maggie Lane, a partner who has litigated child sex cases involving Santa Fe Public Schools before, sees unfortunate correlations between this situation and recent history. “All the red flags that have been hallmarks of previous failures of Santa Fe Public Schools and Santo Nino to protect students from a sexual predator are present. The perpetrator was shuffled from school to school at an unusual pace. We want to know why. In past cases, that shuffling was revealed to essentially be a ‘passing of the trash,’ where a sexual predator was allowed to simply move to another school, or school district, and become someone else’s problem. This has already happened within these very same school districts,” Lane said referring to scandals involving sexual abuse within SFPS and Santo Nino in recent years that resulted in numerous lawsuits and criminal prosecutions of two educators.
Paul, Maggie and Ian are dedicated not only to providing legal assistance to survivors of abuse like this, but they are committed to the hard work of demanding, and if necessary, forcing that institutional chage. The team is demanding answers and will not be satisfied unless the institutions that failed to protect these children are also held accountable. “As a former prosecutor, I know the criminal justice system brings accountability to the perpetrator, but that will not be enough to protect children,” King said. “Institutions that promise to protect our kids dropped the ball and innocent children suffered. That is unacceptable.” Linnenburger agrees. “Officials in the schools and the Church have avoided answering the tough questions so far. How could they let this happen again? While they watched prosecutions for sexual crimes from prior educators of theirs, why didn’t they act to make sure it didn’t happen again? Survivors deserve answers. Our community deserves action. When we are talking about our children who can’t protect themselves, this sort of institutional failure is never acceptable,” Linnenburger said.
Lane followed up, saying “[t]here are clearly systemic, institutional issues here that require profound reflection and meaningful change in order for there to be adequate safeguards for our children. Justice demands no less and that is what we are fighting for.”
Our lawyers are dedicated to the fight for justice on behalf of all survivors of childhood sexual abuse, and that includes efforts to change cultures within institutions to ensure that no family ever has to endure the pain of learning their son, their daughter, their loved one, was victimized in this way.
See the release below.