Most teachers are devoted to helping kids and being good role models, but there are some bad apples.
In those cases, the New Mexico Public Education Department, or PED, launches investigations to determine whether a teacher or administrator acted unethically or unprofessionally and if that educator should be allowed to keep his or her teaching license.
One case PED looked at in 2016 involved Evelyn Stuber after Hobbs Police questioned her in a criminal investigation.
A 17-year-old high schooler told police Stuber kissed him on the neck and rubbed his inner thigh in class when the lights were off during a movie.
Stuber said they just exchanged a clumsy hug.
“Whenever I had leaned forward, the chair kind of moved and so, I stuck my hand on like this to catch my balance and so, my cheek may have brushed his. I don’t know. I was just trying not to fall, but I did lay my shoulder… my chin on his shoulder,” Stuber said.
She said she knew the student’s family and thought of him like a brother, saying they had texted, “love you,” to each other.
She also described stretching out her legs on his in class.
“He was right there and then, like, I had stretched my leg out like that,” Stuber explained.
“But on top of him?” the officer asked.
“Yeah, it was across his knees,” Stuber replied.
A plea deal last year knocked her charge of criminal sexual contact of a minor down to contributing to the delinquency of a minor.
Meanwhile, PED investigated Stuber to see if she followed the State’s Standards of Professional Conduct (NMAC 184.108.40.206[B]&[C]).
“Acting with integrity, acting with the best interest of your students and the community that you serve and mind,” described PED Director of Operations Chris Narkun.
Otherwise, discipline can range from a letter of reprimand to the suspension or revocation of a license.
Stuber chose to voluntarily surrender hers.
PED says it has two investigators handling nearly 200 licensure complaints a year.
In order to shed some light on the kinds of cases PED handles and how parents can find out about them, KRQE requested public records for all of PED’s investigations into ethical misconduct complaints against licensed educators in 2016 and 2017.
The state agency handed over 114 cases, but many of those files were incomplete.
In more than two dozen of them, PED couldn’t or wouldn’t say if the investigations were closed, why they were closed or where the public records are to document that.
KRQE News 13 asked PED if the public should be concerned about the possibility that records are missing in some investigations.
“As I said, the department does everything it can to ensure that the investigations and licensure prosecutions process is as thoroughly documented as possible and that all of those records are retained appropriately,” Narkun said.
It took two records requests to find out how the investigation into Javier Ramos ended.
PED investigated the former Rio Rancho High School assistant principal last year when the district suspected Ramos tried to cover up for his daughter after she crashed into a parked car on campus.
A report from the district said surveillance video showed that, instead of reporting the crash, Ramos left his office and moved his daughter’s truck away from the BMW she hit.
Ramos claimed he didn’t know the other car was damaged.
Police cited him for letting his daughter drive unsupervised with just her learner’s permit, and the district sent PED an ethical misconduct report on the case.
Yet, PED’s investigation ended with “no action,” saying it found no evidence of ethical or professional misconduct.
If you’re wondering why, you won’t get that from PED.
“We’re very limited in terms of what we can say without going through a fairly rigorous process through our general counsel’s office about any specific case,” Narkun said.
The incomplete records PED provided since KRQE started looking into this more than a year ago showed the Department revoked two licenses in 2016 and 2017.
On Friday morning, the day after this Special Assignment aired on television, PED called with different information, saying it actually has records of five revocations in those two years.
The Department also pointed to a steep increase this year, saying PED has revoked nearly 30 licenses so far.
How do those cases make it to the PED? School districts, co-workers and even parents can report the alleged misconduct to the state.
Click here to download a Licensure Complaint Form.
You can also access information to request public records from PED here.