Police: Kindergarten Teacher Pulled Shirt Off 6-Year-Old Girl

11:55 AM, Jan 17, 2014   |    comments
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MESA, Ariz. (AZCentral) -- A Mesa kindergarten teacher was arrested Wednesday after he punished a 6-year-old girl by removing her shirt and forcing her to remain topless for 10 minutes, authorities say.

The incident occurred at Adams Elementary School where Thomas Washburn, 54, was shouting in front of a classroom of 24 students while upset, according to Mesa Police.

Officials said a 6-year-old girl began crying and hid in her shirt in response to Washburn's shouting. When Washburn asked the student to stop hiding and she did not comply, he pulled her shirt off and left her naked from the waist up, according to police. The student was left in this state as class continued for approximately 10 minutes, after which Washburn returned her clothing, police said.

Washburn told the student's mother at the end of the school day what he had done, and she reported the incident to the principal's office. Police were alerted and detectives confirmed the story after interviewing the student and her mother, authorities said.

Investigators initially arrested Washburn on suspicion of one count of child abuse and one count of indecent exposure, as an adult teacher aide was in the classroom at the time of the incident. Police then added 24 additional counts, one for each of the students the child was exposed to in the classroom, police said.

Mesa Public Schools spokeswoman Helen Hollands said Washburn has taught kindergarten and first grade at Adams since August 2006. Asked whether Washburn has been in trouble before, Hollands said "not that I am aware of."

She said the district placed him on administrative leave after phoning the police about the classroom incident. He will remain at home while school officials conduct an investigation of the complaints about his behavior, she said.

"He will receive due process," Hollands said.

There is a strong chance Washburn will not return to the classroom. Hollands said it is against school policy for teachers to act in the way described in the police report.

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