Student accuses former CNM tutor of harassment, assault
March 20, 2018 10:16 PM
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. -- A former student is suing Central New Mexico Community College in federal court, accusing the school for violating Title IX by failing to take timely and appropriate action when she complained that her math tutor had sexually harassed and assaulted her.
Math is a tough subject for Laura Aubert. Wanting to make the grade, Aubert sought help at CNM’s tutoring center. Eventually, the real problem for Aubert turned out to be her tutor.
"You put that trust in an authority figure, a supervisor with the whole tutoring center," Aubert said.
In a federal lawsuit, Aubert claims former CNM tutor Craig VanderPloeg sexually harassed her in the spring of 2015, getting her address from her student file and calling her 100 times.
"It’s been difficult, but I've thought about it every day because it's affected me," Aubert said.
While in a cubicle in the tutoring center, Aubert alleges VanderPloeg grabbed her breasts and forced her hand over his crotch. When she rejected him, she claims he threatened that if she didn’t have intercourse with him, he would make sure she failed math.
Aubert complained to the tutoring staff at CNM. She said she was left in limbo for a month and a half while VanderPloeg still worked at CNM.
"They just kind of left me waiting," Aubert said.
"She needed somebody to take it seriously and do something about it right then and there," added Susan Chappell, Aubert’s attorney.
The lawsuit further details that when the tutoring center failed to take action, Aubert emailed the dean and filed a harassment report with CNM campus security in May 2015. The federal lawsuit further alleges that VanderPloeg resigned in the summer of 2015 after CNM sent him a pre-termination notice.
"These complaints need to be taken seriously," Chappell said. "We are in an era right now, a historical moment where we’re hearing about how often these complaints are not taken seriously and are not acted upon."
4 Investigates reached out to CNM for a response to Aubert's claims. In an email, CNM spokesperson Brad Moore said CNM does not comment on ongoing litigation. Since the federal lawsuit includes the campus security report, CNM cannot comment on that either.
Court records reveal that attorneys for CNM claim Aubert “fails to allege specific, plausible facts to show that CNM had notice of the sexual harassment.”
During this, VanderPloeg remained a University of New Mexico contract employee teaching classes at Southwestern Indian Polytechnic Institute until August 2016. Aubert claims she didn’t know VanderPloeg was a UNM employee when she enrolled in classes at UNM. She said ran into him on UNM's campus.
VanderPloeg was a non-credit instructor from January 2015 through July 2016. He continued his UNM contract employment as adjunct faculty at SIPI through Aug. 19, 2016. UNM spokesperson Daniel Jiron said VanderPloeg has not been employed by UNM since.
Jiron said UNM can't confirm nor deny if VanderPloeg happened to be on the grounds during this time frame since UNM's campus is open. Jiron added that UNM was not aware of the complaint filed against VanderPloeg while he worked for CNM. UNM only checks for criminal convictions when hiring staff.
A records request filed by 4 Investigates reveal VanderPloeg does not have a disciplinary file at UNM.
Aubert feels both schools have failed her.
"That person makes you feel like you can trust them and what you’re saying is serious and you’re worthy of them following through," Aubert said.
4 Investigates also reached out to VanderPloeg. As of Tuesday evening, he has not returned requests for comment.
Updated: March 20, 2018 10:16 PM
Created: March 20, 2018 08:04 PM
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