District Settles For $475K After Teacher Punched Boy, 9

A New Mexico school district has agreed to pay $475,000 to settle a lawsuit filed by the family of a boy who was punched by a music teacher. The Santa Fe New Mexican reports a copy of the settlement says New Mexico Public Schools Insurance Authority agreed to make the payout on behalf of Tony E. Quintana “Sombrillo” Elementary School in December. The school is part of Espanola Public Schools.

The boy’s parents filed the suit in November 2017, two months after former teacher John Andrew Valdez pleaded guilty to three counts of battery. He agreed to complete 18 months of probation as part of the plea agreement. Prosecutors say Valdez struck the then-9-year-old boy and two other children.

About $180,000 was paid to the child’s attorney, according to the agreement, and about $294,600 was placed in a trust for the boy. The boy and his family — who were identified only by their initials — said in the complaint that Valdez screamed at the boy and punched him three times with a closed fist, dislocating his shoulder. “Defendant Valdez then kicked another male student in the shin and grabbed a third male student’s hair, pulling that student to the ground,” according to the complaint. Valdez shouted at the students “that they were ‘stupid’ and to `shut up,’” the lawsuit says.

The family also named the elementary school’s former principal in the complaint, saying the children reported the attack to him but he didn’t call police or contact parents.

“When the student arrived home from school that afternoon,” the complaint says, he had blood on his clothes, threw up and was “acting strangely and was unable to walk.” His parents took him to the hospital and medical staff made a report to police. Valdez was fired a short time later and agreed to a two-year suspension of his teaching license, according to the complaint.

Valdez had taught in various New Mexico schools since at least 1996, when he was a music teacher at Pojoaque High School, according to the lawsuit. State police investigated Valdez in 2008 after a woman told police he had pulled her shirt up and ran his hand up her thigh after she refused to have sex with him, the complaint says. Valdez claimed the contact was consensual, the complaint says, and no charges were filed.

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