It’s difficult nowadays, to know who to trust when it comes to our children. After all, we hear so many stories about how strangers, or even friends, can turn into abusers, kidnappers, even murderers without ever giving us a single clue as to their secret intentions.
Yet how do we separate simple kindness from salacious intent? It’s not an easy thing to do. The fact is, we have to trust that some people are looking out for our children. Then again, some are just looking at them…
Ashley was like many elementary school students. She was bright, inquisitive, and overly trusting: especially when it came to her parents and her teachers. One teacher in particular took a keen interest in her growing intellect and for a fifth grader on her way to middle school in a year, that meant a great deal.
Her teacher wanted her to stay after school sometimes so that they could work on extra assignments to presumably prepare her for advanced classes when she got into the higher grades. Little Ashley didn’t think anything of it. As far as she was concerned, she was just being appreciated and liked by somebody…
Ashley’s teacher showed so much appreciation for her that he even gave her a picture of himself to take home with her. This was the last straw for her mother, Winona, who immediately put a stop to her daughter’s after school visits with the teacher. But there were no reprisals, life moved on as usual. Perhaps he had just been showing interest in a bright young student.
Of course, Ashley Kuntz wasn’t the only young woman who had been receiving special treatment from the same elementary school teacher. Several others were invited to stay later or even sit in with him at recess on several occasions. Now, it could have been that the man was simply interested in fostering the idea that education was something to be celebrated, but of course the cynics out there will no doubt see this supposition as laughable…
Yet, even these invitations were nothing that many teachers wouldn’t ask their most gifted students. The teacher even began to give the girls, and indeed all of them were girls, new books as gifts. The students were ecstatic, as all of them did enjoy reading after all. It was only when their parents began to ask where they had gotten the books, that things became murkier.
One of the girls had told some of her friends where she had gotten the books from and found that the formerly nice teacher was anything but. When he found out that she had told people, he became stern, even frightening and warned her that if she said anything else, anything at all, “something will happen…”
Living in Fear
Frightened and unable to tell anyone that the teacher was less than the encouraging teacher she believed him to be, the girl kept quiet. Her parents meanwhile, believed that the books were a one-time thing, a simple gift from a wonderful teacher. What they didn’t know, was that others, like Ashley, had the same thing happening to them.
Luckily for the frightened young girl, her teacher’s threats would be nothing by the end of the year. By the end of the school year itself, she and her family moved away. It was all over: or so she thought. Then she got a Facebook friend request…
The Facebook friend in question was none other than 65-year-old Gilbert Joseph Trujillo, a fourth and fifth grade teacher who worked at Dupont Elementary School in Commerce City, Colorado. It was the last straw for the girl’s mother and she called to report the incident to the school. The thing was, they already knew.
They had known for some time in fact. For example when Ashley Kuntz’s mother, Winona Garrett, decided Mr. Trujillo’s behavior towards her daughter was inappropriate, she called the school. She believed that the teacher had no interest in fostering her daughter’s love of education and was instead grooming her daughter with expensive gifts in hopes of one day taking the next step…
She had complained to the school about this behavior in 2007. Over the next five years, more and more mothers made calls to the school complaining of Mr. Trujillo’s inappropriate behavior and unwarranted favoritism with their daughters. Trujillo had arranged for the girls to be alone with them in his classroom at recess or after school, that way they wouldn’t be disturbed.
He would then close the blinds and lock the doors before beginning an uncomfortable hour or so of inappropriate fondling. He would hug, kiss, and touch his young victims, often on their buttocks, breasts, and thighs. Finally, after years of this and many warnings, the school administrators eventually allowed him to resign quietly…before rehiring him…
It seemed that Despite all the complaints the Adams County School District 14 received, and all the proof they had of his wrongdoings, the school never officially called the police. Indeed, they weren’t notified about the instances of molestation until they began an official investigation into Gil Trujillo’s behavior in 2013: six years after the first complaints began.
Why So Long?
Had they acted more quickly, or informed police when the concerns were first voiced, Adams 14 could have spared many young girls a great deal of trauma. Nevertheless, when asked why it took them so long to let police know, school officials declined to answer. In the end though, Trujillo would be held accountable for his crimes…
When the months-long investigation was finally concluded, five female students, all between ages 9 and 10, came forward and Gil Trujillo was finally arrested. He faced charges of sexual assault on a child as well as sexual assault on a child by a person in a position of trust: eleven counts in all. The allegations include kissing, fondling, and inappropriate touching of all kinds.
Trujillo was held on a $20,000 bond and a short time later was put on trial for his crimes. Ultimately, the evidence worked against him. In April, Trujillo was sentenced to eight years to life in prison. The only bright side, if indeed there can be a bright side to a tale like this, is that none of the girls were forced into any actual sexual intercourse with the teacher. Of course, they still carry away scars…
“What you expect to hear from children is how their teacher taught them math skills or reading skills or how to love science, but that is not what these girls were taught,” explains senior deputy district attorney Yvette Guthrie. She went on to explain how all Trujillo has successfully taught them was fear, shame, and guilt.
One question remains to be answered in all this. How can a man who has dedicated his life to teaching young children, a man who throughout his long career taught hundreds of children, turn his attentions to harming those children? It seems that even Trujillo himself doesn’t know. What makes this story particularly different than others of it’s type, is that Trujillo was an elementary school teacher, not a high school teacher…
Christopher James Hooker taught at Enochs High School in Modesto, California and he was what most of his young students considered, a very cool teacher as well. The problem was, Mr. Hooker had a thing for young girls and they eventually got the better of him when he ran away with 14-year-old Jordan Powers so that the two of them could “be together.”
The two were, as far as Jordan was concerned, in love. Yet it was all a farce, Jordan was just another in a line of female students that had been ensnared, albeit temporarily by “cool Mr. Hooker.” Eventually, Jordan returned home and Hooker was caught and arrested, but this is just another lesson to beware of those teachers who show just a little too much interest in your kids.