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.