Lawsuit alleges school added to student’s pain in sex assault case

Posted: June 16, 2011 in Uncategorized
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Erik Armstrong (Photo courtesy Santa Fe County jail)

A lawsuit filed this week in State District Court alleges not only did McCurdy School in Española not properly handle reports of a school employee having an inappropriate relationship with a teen female student there, but the school “instead began a campaign of harassment and retaliation against” the girl and her family when they brought forth evidence of the sexual relationship.

Erik “Memo” Armstrong, the 35-year-old former information-technologies technician at the small private school, lived on campus and state police reports indicate he admitted to having sex with the girl who is now 17 (she was 16 when the sexual relations began, according to the lawsuit).

Armstrong faces 21 years in prison after he was indicted in March on charges of criminal sexual penetration and sexual exploitation of the girl for allegedly having nude photos of the girl on his school-owned computer.

Those photos, the court records indicate, were found by the girls mom, presented to police and the school on Aug. 30, 2010. It was that same day the school told state police Armstrong was let go for “budgetary issues.”

After being presented with the nude photos, the school began harassing the girl and her mother in an effort to get the honor roll student to drop out, the lawsuit alleges. She graduated from the school this month, according to the lawsuit written by attorney Robert Rothstein.

There are allegations in the lawsuit that Armstrong was talked to by school officials in the spring of 2010 and told to stop letting young girls in his office and on-campus home alone. The girl who was later the named victim of Armstrong’s criminal sexual penetration charges was specifically mentioned in that warning to Armstrong, according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit asks for unspecified punitive and compensatory damages as the court deems fit and named as defendants are the school, Armstrong and the church that runs the school.

Here is Thursday’s article:

A telephone message left with the school Wednesday was not returned.

Obviously the allegations are serious and the potential payout could cripple, if not bring an end to the financially-strapped school.

Coincidentally, a glowing article appeared in this week’s Rio Grande Sun (dated online as being published just today) written by McCurdy grad and the paper’s managing editor R. Braiden Trapp.

Trapp writes:

The one glimmering hope in the Valley’s dismal schools is McCurdy School. It’s private, not cheap and has a Christian emphasis. It’s not for everyone.

But it delivers. Every year, every graduating class sends almost every graduate on to higher education of some sort. And the teens that graduate from there go on to do some great things.

… and …

There’s a reason it’s referred to as an institution. It has a standing in the community and the community supports the school to the best of its ability. Anyone who’s worked with the school in any capacity knows its uniqueness and what it has to offer, not just to the individual student but the family from which he or she comes.

… and …

McCurdy is in a very difficult financial position. The board and Alvarado are struggling to make an outdated business model morph into a workable one. It takes time, commitment, community involvement, state support and a lot of prayer.

Taking two steps forward to be knocked back one by arson is almost more of a test than even Job would want tossed at him. The school needs our support. It’s a major cog in the education wheel of the Valley.

Here is a link to Trapp’s article column:

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