More than two months after a former health aide at Gonzales Community School was charged with felony counts of molesting a student, the school will hold a virtual discussion Thursday on the allegations.

In an automated call to parents late Tuesday afternoon, Principal Chris Lopez said the school was “shocked and saddened” by news reports late last week on the arrest of 30-year-old Robert Apodaca in July in connection with allegations he sexually abused a boy in 2019 and an allegation of a more recent incident of sexual abuse at Santo Niño Regional Catholic School.

Lopez’s call went out after The New Mexican questioned officials at Santa Fe Public Schools about whether they had notified parents of Apodaca’s arrest. He had worked at six schools in the district between December 2012 and September 2020.

In an interview Tuesday, Superintendent Hilario “Larry” Chavez said the district only became aware of Apodaca’s charges late last week.

In an email, Chavez added that a review of Apodaca’s personnel file showed “this issue had not surfaced” in district schools.

An arrest warrant affidavit says Santa Fe police Detective Jordan White contacted the district to confirm Apodaca’s employment.

Chavez said police sent an email to the district’s human resources department July 14 to confirm the timeline of Apodaca’s employment but did not share any information on the investigation.

The former Gonzales student who accused Apodaca of abuse was 12. He told police some of the abuse occurred in the school nurse’s office, where Apodaca worked as a health aide.

Court records say Apodaca admitted to some instances of sexual abuse but denied such crimes occurred on school property.

The boy and Apodaca also knew each other through the North Santa Fe Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses, where Apodaca served as a volunteer minister starting in 2019. An elder at the congregation reported him to police when the boy’s family came forward with concerns in June, according to the arrest warrant affidavit. The U.S. Branch of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Wallkill, N.Y., said in a statement he was removed from his position July 3.

The organization did not answer questions on whether the congregation was notified about the allegations against Apodaca.

He is being held in the Santa Fe County jail without bond until his trial in the case involving the Gonzales student. He has not been charged in connection with the allegation at Santo Niño.

Apodaca also worked in Ortiz Middle School, Tesuque, Kearney and Chaparral elementary schools and at the now-defunct Capshaw Middle School.

Still, district leaders are only reaching out to Gonzales parents at this time.

Chavez said in an email Tuesday, “Gonzales is our immediate focus because the student in question attended that school and could have had contact with Mr. Apodaca. We are aware of this potential in one instance.”

Lopez said Gonzales school will partner with the local Solace Crisis Treatment Center for the virtual meeting Thursday to “facilitate a discussion surrounding speaking about the reported event and working toward healing our community.”

The district’s safety director, Mario Salbidrez, will make a presentation on “reporting on incidents involving matters of safety and security,” Lopez said.

Santo Niño Principal Robin Chavez has faced criticism from some parents at her school in recent days for not informing them sooner about concerns of possible sexual abuse of a student in April.

She has declined to comment, except to confirm Apodaca’s employment and to say he resigned in April over a “policy violation.”

Robin Chavez may have worked with Apodaca at Gonzales when she served as assistant principal there in 2019.

(2) comments

Charlotte Rowe

Larry Nassar was just the visible tip of the iceberg. Sadly I suspect his kind of behavior is less rare than we would like to think. A pity most of the perpetrators won't enjoy the extended sentence that Nassar received.

Cynthia Paxton

It is certainly a good thing that a reporter reached out to the school. Apparently, our school leadership does not read the papers or become concerned when law enforcement investigates the background of an employee. SFPS is not interested in investigating whether any other children were victim to this predator. Shame on Superintendent Chavez for refusing to be proactive and shame on our board who will allow him to continue in his position.

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