4 Investigates: Red flags ignored in case involving an APS teacher accused of serial child sexual abuse
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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — It’s inconceivable to think that a teacher would be able to molest young students inside a classroom, even just one time. The Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Department accused Danny Aldaz, a former APS 2nd grade teacher, of sexually assaulting and molesting four of his students inside his classroom in a time span from 2013-2020. It begs the question – if the allegations prove true, how did this go on for so long? Our KOB 4 investigation reveals, there were some red flags that appear to have been ignored.
Aldaz was a teacher at Valle Vista Elementary in Albuquerque when in January 2020, one of his female students told a family member that Aldaz had touched her genitals and she was forced to touch his. That girl’s mother spoke exclusively to the KOB 4 Investigates Team.
“She was seven at the time in second grade, it was her first year at that school,” the mother who wished to remain anonymous to protect the identify of her daughter, told KOB 4. “At the beginning of the year, she was excited about school and she was comfortable, but after a while, after winter break, is when she let us know.”
That second grade student is one of four girls who told BCSO investigators that their teacher Danny Aldaz sexually assaulted and molested them inside their own classrooms. Three of the girls say their abuses happened between 2014 and 2020 at Valle Vista Elementary. One girl told investigators her abuse happened in 2013 when Aldaz taught at Helen Cordero Elementary.
Red Flags Ignored
To understand Aldaz’s history, the KOB 4 Investigates Team requested and received documents from the New Mexico Public Education Department, Albuquerque Public Schools, the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office and the courts. The hundreds of records reviewed reveal some major problems that may have allowed Aldaz to prey on young girls.
The problems may begin with the design of the Valle Vista Elementary classroom. Photos taken by a BCSO detective show the classroom has a large wall near back of the class that separates an area where the students hang their coats and backpacks. But the photos show Aldaz used a filing a cabinet and a large red blanket to cover one of the exits of that space. With only one entrance, the space created a new private area. All three of the girls who attended Valle Vista Elementary told law enforcement that Aldaz sexually abused them in that private area. The mother who we spoke to questions how that red blanket and the creation of a private area inside a classroom didn’t set off alarms for administrators.
“It’s completely covered up,” the mother told us. “It’s a thick wall that goes all the way up. You can hear when somebody is going to walk up behind you or through the sides. It’s a hidden area.”
KOB 4 asked APS to comment about these classroom designs, but a spokeswoman declined to comment.
Prior CYFD Investigations
In the records, we discovered around the 2017 timeframe, the New Mexico Children’s Youth and Families Department had three investigations into Aldaz and two of them were substantiated.
But did anybody at APS know what CYFD was investigating him for? What were the claims? What did CYFD find out? Did CYFD ever communicate to APS about what they found? Nobody at CYFD was willing to answer these questions and nobody at APS would explain the relationship they have with CYFD to cross share information.
What is clear is that despite those two substantiating findings by CYFD, Aldaz remained in the classroom for three more years, where Aldaz then allegedly molested at least one young girl.
“She did change,” the mother told us. “She had to grow kind of quick. She shouldn’t have known about stuff like that, but now she does and now she is 10 and there is no hiding stuff from her anymore.”
Administrators didn’t take concerns seriously
This mother worries that the culture at APS doesn’t give parents enough of a voice when they have concerns about what is going on inside the classroom. She says when she went to meet with administrators at Valle Vista Elementary, she was initially blown off.
“The secretary asked, ‘what do you need?’ and we said, ‘we need to talk to the principal.’ Then she asked, ‘why?’ and we told her why. When the principal walked in the clerk said, ‘this family is here to talk to you’ and she said ‘I don’t have time for that.’”
According to the mother, the principal did call back two days later and heard her concerns. APS placed Aldaz on administrative leave on January 12, 2020 and he hasn’t back inside a classroom since.
Aldaz is in custody on a pre-trial detention hold. He faces a total of 24 criminal counts involving the four victims. Aldaz taught at Edward Gonzales Elementary, Helen Cordero Elementary and Valle Vista Elementary. He also taught kids’ yoga classes. BCSO detectives worry Aldaz may have preyed on other young girls who may not have come forward. Anybody with concerns about Aldaz is encouraged to speak with BCSO detectives.