Another child molested at Santa Fe Catholic school with history of abuse

Santa Fe, NM - Another student attending Santo Niño Regional Catholic School in Santa Fe is now among a growing list of victims of child sex crimes.

A 9-year-old boy has bravely revealed that the school nurse, Robert Andrew Apodaca (DOB 01/24/1991), was inappropriately touching him.

“As I send my child off to school every day, I trust strangers in the education system to have the best interest of this vulnerable little human being,” shares the young boy’s mother. “It’s heartbreaking to learn not everyone has the right intentions.”

According to New Mexico State Police:
-The alleged crime occurred April 2021 when the victim was 8 years old.
-Apodaca was overseeing an after-school program in which the kids watched a movie.
-Another school worker says when she tried to go into the room with Apodaca and the students, the door was locked. When she finally got inside, she was “startled and surprised” to see Apodaca with a child on his lap. The witness says Apodaca also seemed startled to see the other adult and asked, “What are you doing here?”
-The child told his parents, the principal and police that several times Apodaca had picked him up, placed him on Apodaca’s lap and rubbed the boy’s body. According to the child, Apodaca would give him lollypops and let him play games on the nurse’s iPad, treats only given to him.
-On several occasions, Apodaca took the victim on walks around the school and into empty rooms after school hours, telling the child to keep this behavior their secret.
-The principal says it’s against school policy for staff and kids to be alone together.
-Apodaca has left the school.

Shortly after this investigation at Santo Niño began, Apodaca was formally charged in another case and is now being held without bail. He admitted to repeatedly molesting another child, a 12-year-old boy, dating back to 2019. Police say he met that other child while working as a nurse at Kearny Elementary and Gonzales Community School. He also knew the 12-year-old boy because Apodaca was a minister in the same Jehovah’s Witness congregation. Over the last several years, Apodaca’s employment as a nurse at various schools, and his position as a minister, put hundreds of kids in dangerous contact with him.

If this story sounds familiar, that’s because it is.

In 2016, a 6-year-old girl at the very same school, Santo Niño Regional Catholic, accused her art teacher, Aaron Dean Chavez, of illegally and inappropriately touching her. The courage of this young girl inspired many others to also come forward with their own horrific stories of abuse spanning many years. Chavez was found guilty and is now serving a 15-year prison sentence.

Tragically, the abuses in 2016 were preventable. The Santo Niño school administration and former Principal Theresa Vaisa had been ignoring the red flags for years. Back in 2012, Chavez had faced another allegation from a different student, but evidence shows the school failed to conduct its own internal investigation and the molester was let back into the classroom. In 2016 when more students started speaking up against Chavez, police recordings show Principal Vaisa doubting, blaming and even shaming the children who bravely shared their experiences. The trial testimony reveals Vaisa knowingly buried the accusations, evaded police questions and negligently curated an environment ripe for a child predator.

While a civil case against former Principal Vaisa and the Catholic school is still ongoing, now a new administration under the direction of current Principal Robin Chavez has again failed to protect children by allowing a new molester in the front door.

“How could the same heinous acts be committed at the same school, and in such a short time period? Where are the systemic changes that could have prevented these life-scarring abuses from happening over and over?” asks attorney Aaron Boland, who represents student victims. “The victims’ parents and I are sickened to see a pattern at Santo Niño. How could the children of our community again be put in such grave danger, and what will it take for this to stop?”

If your child has been a victim of abuse, please contact New Mexico State Police, and for legal guidance, please contact Aaron Boland.

Related News Stories:

9/15/21: Archdiocese, Santo Niño principal dispute state police officer's account of interview

9/14/21: No excuses: Report all cases of suspected abuse

9/11/21: Former Santa Fe school employee accused of fondling child, facing charges

9/10/21: Gonzales Community School hosts discussion focused on child abuse prevention

9/10/21: Santa Fe Archdiocese Official Statement

9/10/21: Archdiocese of Santa Fe's legal fees exceed $2.3 million in bankruptcy case

9/9/21: Schools must handle sexual assault allegations better

9/8/21: Santa Fe man potentially linked to two cases of child sexual abuse

9/8/21: Santo Niño parents push for principal's removal over silence on child sex abuse claim

9/8/21: Gonzales Community School to hold virtual discussion over ex-health aide accused of abuse

9/7/21: Santa Fe archdiocese denies it told principal not to report alleged sex abuse

9/4/21: Santo Niño principal did not alert police of alleged abuse 

9/2/21: New abuse charges brought against former Santa Fe school health aide