State agency policies questioned after murder of 13-year-old

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NAMBE, N.M. (KQRE) – Jeremiah Valencia and his sister were abruptly taken out of school in the middle of a semester. Months later he would be dead, and according to investigators, he had endured months of abuse beforehand.

Now, KRQE News 13 has learned no one followed up on them.

“These things stay with you,” said Sergeant Richard Mathews.

Investigators say they can’t sleep at night.

“The system needs to be looked at,” said Pete Kassetas.

Law enforcement is downright frustrated. There are many questions surrounding 13-year-old Jeremiah Valencia.

“How does it get to this point?” said State Rep. Eliseo Alcon.

At a committee meeting at the capitol on Thursday, Jeremiah’s death was a hot topic.

“Where were we that we allowed this to happen?” said Alcon.

Wouldn’t a school have noticed a child missing?  A spokesperson for West Las Vegas schools said in February 2017, Jeremiah and his sister were withdrawn from the middle school. No one checked to see if the kids were enrolled in a new school.

“We are in charge of these children. These are our children,” said Alcon at the committee meeting.

Public Education Department policies say school districts must make efforts to keep students enrolled, but there is no set system in place to track children taken out of schools.  A spokesperson for PED said school districts are required to transfer records to a requesting school, but if no request is made, there is no further obligation on the part of the school district.

“Where were we when this child was being abused?” said Alcon.

Lawmakers like Alcon have questions for CYFD. In 2011, a spokesperson for CYFD said they opened an investigation into Jeremiah’s family concerning abuse or neglect.

Family members petitioned for temporary guardianship, and it was granted. Once CYFD determined the children were in a safe home, the case was closed.

“Families have a constitutional right to live their lives without CYFD in that family unless those families are breaking the law,” said Monique Jacobson, the Cabinet Secretary for CYFD during that committee meeting.

A spokesperson said once a case is closed, CYFD no longer has jurisdiction over that family.

In response to looking into a better system to track students once they are taken out of school, a spokesperson for PED said:

We are always, collectively, concerned with our students being in a learning environment.  Continuing to improve partnerships, data sharing between families, schools, districts and other state agencies has the potential to improve tracking of students.

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