Teacher accused of sexual abuse at Linn-Mar Schools faced previous allegations

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MARION, Iowa (KCRG-TV9) -- A Linn-Mar Community School District teacher allowed to resign while facing sexual abuse allegations had faced similar accusations from students multiple times. Robert Ortiz was placed on paid administrative leave in October 2017 and resigned in June.

Robert Ortiz (Courtesy photo)

A review of a police investigation file and Ortiz's personnel file revealed a pattern of complaints against the teacher that started almost immediately after his employment began at Linn-Mar and went on for years.

"That is disgusting . . . . These people are in charge of our children and they're covering stuff like this up," said Ian Gerard. Last year, Gerard's daughter reported to Marion police that Ortiz had sexually abused her - repeatedly - on school grounds for several years when she was a student at Excelsior Middle School.

In 2016, Gerard's daughter gave a letter to Excelsior School administrators that she wrote with another student describing Ortiz's behavior as "pedophilic" and "perverted".

Gerard said he asked the school district for more information about Ortiz and the district did not cooperate. He said the family received a letter from Linn-Mar School District attorneys insisting his daughter's letter was all they were aware of that could be related to her alleged sexual abuse.

"We've heard nothing from them," said Gerard.

Gerard's daughter came forward with her allegations last November, and while police ultimately could not prove claims from two years earlier, the investigative file notes it is consistent with claims Linn-Mar documented from more than 10 other students.

The first claim came in September 2014, Ortiz's first year with the district, when a district investigation found Ortiz was sharing "unprofessional" content on his social media accounts, some of it was of a "sexual nature." It was posted during a time he was supposed to be working. His punishment was a letter of counseling and a written warning.

In January 2016, there was an almost identical finding from a new investigation that led to another written warning.

Ortiz received another letter of counseling in March 2016 after six students had complained he was invading their personal space and leering at female students.

He was also ordered to undergo counseling in January 2017 after several students said Ortiz would rub their shoulders and touch their backs.

Additional complaints about Ortiz's behavior online and with students in the classroom were noted in September 2017.

Ortiz was placed on paid administrative leave last October after a student claimed he tapped her on the buttocks in class. In that case, the family declined to press charges as long as the teacher was not allowed back in the classroom.

"What has happened in this case is what's called a 'silent settlement agreement,' which results in a mobile molester," said attorney, MaryJo McGrath.

McGrath is an attorney who has been training school districts around the country, including those in Iowa, about educator sexual misconduct and how administrators should investigate such behavior for two decades.

"Title IX requires an investigation when the district gets notice that behavior is occurring that is either sexual harassment or sexual abuse," McGrath said.

She believes Linn-Mar Schools is breaking federal law.

"That notice requires then that they start an investigation. That investigation requires that the complaining party be notified of what's happening in the investigation at the different steps. They also have a right to be notified and may even have a right to a copy of the investigation."

The Gerard family said they have not received any updates or additional information and think that taking the district to court is the only way they may ever find out the full extent to what district officials know about Robert Ortiz's behavior in the classroom.

"I've tried to make contact a couples times," said Gerard. "I've been told by peoples' assistants that they will not talk to me. Cannot talk to me. That's it."

Other districts where Ortiz worked prior to his employment at Linn-Mar said they had no public records of any issues.

Ortiz still holds an Iowa teaching license and it doesn't expire until 2019. It does not appear Ortiz is teaching this school year.

Ann Lebo, the Executive Director of the Iowa Board of Educational Examiners - the state agency that regulates teaching licenses, was asked to explain in an interview how a teacher with red flags in their past may be able to keep their teaching license. Ann Lebo declined.

Officials from Linn-Mar Schools were asked to comment on the situation, but they have not responded.

Robert Ortiz has not responded to repeated interview requests.