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Robin Chavez

Seven parents of students at Santo Niño Regional Catholic School on Tuesday encouraged others to join an effort to demand the principal’s ouster.

The parents, who held a protest and petition signing near the campus Tuesday morning, said they object to what they contend was Principal Robin Chavez’s silence on an allegation of child sexual abuse in the spring against former health aide Robert Apodaca and a New Mexico State Police investigation into the accusation. They also have criticized the Archdiocese of Santa Fe for failing to inform them about the alleged incident.

Apodaca, 30, was arrested in July and remains jailed on felony molestation charges in an unrelated case involving a boy at Gonzales Community School, where Apodaca previously worked.

Chavez didn’t respond to requests for an interview Tuesday.

A state police report provided by an attorney says a staffer saw Apodaca with a boy on his lap in a dark, locked room where students were watching a film after school April 23. The staffer informed Chavez about the incident April 26, the report said, and she spoke with the boy’s mother, who reached out to state police April 28.

An officer went to the school the following day to speak with Chavez. She told him officials at the archdiocese had directed her not to inform authorities about the alleged incident, according to the police report.

The archdiocese said in a statement Saturday it would never give such an order. In a separate statement Tuesday, the Roman Catholic organization said: “The situation IS being investigated by the Archdiocese of Santa Fe. Additional information will be forthcoming on our website.”

Chavez informed Santo Niño parents through a newsletter in late spring that Apodaca no longer worked at the school but provided no details on his departure. She also did not alert parents when he was arrested in July on three felony counts of criminal sexual contact with a child.

Aaron Boland, a Santa Fe attorney representing the Santo Niño boy and his parents, said: “It does look to me like the ball was dropped somewhere.”

Chavez met individually Tuesday with some parents who were concerned about the situation.

“I want a group conference,” parent Lynsey Storm said. “So she can’t gaslight every parent.”

Storm said she would meet with Chavez on Wednesday.

Another parent said Chavez had a representative from the archdiocese with her in the Tuesday meetings as well as the Rev. John Cannon, rector of the school.

Women who organized the petition drive stopped cars after parents had dropped off their children at the school in southern Santa Fe. An employee ordered them to move farther away from the school, which they did.

“We’re trying to get Robin Chavez removed,” Storm said through the window of a car. “She lied to the entire school.” Storm said later they had collected 20 to 25 names of parents who wanted to stay informed on the matter.

As the 8 a.m. student drop-off came to an end, the seven parents commiserated. “So is it just a waiting game now?” asked Jenna Harrington. “It sounds like it’s going to be a long, drawn-out process.”

As of noon Tuesday, about 245 people had signed the parents’ online petition on change.org, which is open to anyone. Among other things, the petition called for the immediate firing of Chavez and an investigation into how Apodaca was hired.

(8) comments

Lee Vigil

I agree with Julia Nathanson. The reporting on this issue hasn't been ideal. One really doesn't know who is it fault, but it seems like everyone is running away from the issue, trying to deflect blame, perhaps with the church coming out a little ahead in the jury of public opinion. I wish this paper would dig deeper and report more thoroughly.

It pains me to say, but the Catholic Church and their schools aren't exactly a shining example of honesty and integrity given their history and the sexual abuses that have come to light in the last few decades.

I feel bad for the Principal, because while I read the articles surrounding this scandal, I can't help but feeling that the church and the school are throwing her under the bus. She's poised to take the blame for Apodaca. The parents are believing the church because that's what they're conditioned to do. With these kinds of outcomes, I don't know how anybody with any talent would want a job as the Principal of this school, with little support and extreme risk that this job would require.

But all of this is conjecture, because the issue really hasn't been researched and reported thoroughly or even superficially. I wish the paper would do a better job, do some research, interview some people, and tell us what's really going on.

Robert Kowalski

Lee the parents are NOT believing the church. Many parents think both parties are lying in one way or another.

Lee Vigil

Robert, you are sadly likely correct. The truth is somewhere in between, but we're not hearing the truth yet. It seems to me that had she gone to law enforcement first, she would've been fired. She didn't go to the authorities first, and now she will likely have to resign. All/most of the loss is borne by the Principal. If my child was a student there, I would demand that the Archdiocese/school lay out a very specific plan/policy to address these situations and support their staff when they enforce it.

Julia Nathanson

The first story I read by reporter Pollard was a shameful example of reporting. if the principal was expected to follow the rules or laws, what were they?

What privacy laws existed controlling discussion, public or private?

What was the purpose of mentioning the police report about the accused at Gonzales School? Or of deriding her final words in the bulletin to parents before the weekend? A news story is intended to inform with fact and truth. What laws did the principal not follow? (There have been so many renditions of this story that I can't remember all of them.)

I don't know the principal. But this story as written seems defamatory and based more on conjecture than fact. And now a parent is standing on the street with a petition.

I have read the New Mexican for forty years and always respected and enjoyed it. This writing and reporting was disappointing.

Robert Kowalski

The purpose was to show that there were prior allegations against Mr Apodaca and that it wasn’t the first time. The principal did not follow reporting laws. She didn’t not have to have archdiocese approval to report this to law enforcement. She HAS to regardless of what they say. It is her legal duty as an educator and administrator. The bigges tissue is she knew in April and say ZERO to parents until the first report came out.

Antonio B Archuleta

This is not the first time this has happened.

Isaac Garcia

Shame on you Robin, how dare you put our children at risk. How dare you lie to an entire community and keep this to yourself. As an adult and as a person you knew this was wrong. You knew the lasting effects this would have on this poor child and our community. We trusted and had faith you would lead and take care of these children and you let us down, let our children down, let our community down and let our school down. You did what we teach our children not to do, keep secrets.

I am furious that you are still able to lead this school and walk those halls like nothing ever happened, why? You have failed as an educator, principal and as a person, why are you still allowed to lead this school? How do we as parents feel safe sending our kids to any place with you as their overseer?

Joseph Tafoya

I remember the Sunday she was introduced to the congregation at Santa Maria de la Paz as the new principal of Santo Nino Regional Catholic School. After she gave her intro speech, she appeared confident and ready for the challenges of the job. Unfortunately, she is now caught up in the scandal of pedophilia that has pledged the Catholic church for decades, and it will continue. As a Catholic, I do not trust anything that Archbishop John C. Wester says or does. Regardless of whether she was told to or not to inform the authorities, Robin Chavez should have recognized the seriousness of the charge against Apodaca and informed the proper authorities and the parents. Now she needs to step up and atone for her failures and resign in order to save Santo Nino Regional Catholic school from further damage.

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