Lawsuits filed in state and federal courts allege that a security aide at Cleveland High School groped three students on the pretext of searching the boys for contraband.
The three lawsuits, all filed against Rio Rancho Public Schools on behalf of three boys, allege that George Archuleta inappropriately touched each of the students on multiple occasions.
Archuleta has denied the allegations, according to a response to one of the lawsuits filed in U.S. District Court in Albuquerque.
Archuleta’s attorney, Carlos Quiñones of Santa Fe, did not immediately respond to voice and email messages seeking comment on July 2.
The lawsuits were filed by the parents of current or former Cleveland High students on behalf of their sons.
Beth Pendergrass, an RRPS spokeswoman, said the district does not comment on pending litigation, but she acknowledged Archuleta worked for the district from September 2009 to March 2020.
Jerry Walz, an attorney for the school district, said he could not comment on a case in active litigation.
All three of the suits were filed in state court in the 13th Judicial District Court, which covers Sandoval, Cibola and Valencia counties, between March 15 and June 29.
The initial lawsuit was transferred to U.S. District Court in May. The other two suits remained in state court on Wednesday.
All three of the suits allege that Archuleta groped the boys during purported searches for contraband.
Todd Bullion, one of three attorneys representing the boys and their parents, said RRPS has a policy that allows security aides to search students believed to possess drugs or weapons. But Archuleta had no reason to think any of the boys possessed contraband, he said.
“There was no cause to conduct any searches of any of these kids,” Bullion said.
The suits allege that no contraband was found during any of the searches. The suits also contend that the searches were illegal because Archuleta lacked reason to believe the boys had contraband.
As Archuleta’s employer, the district was responsible for his conduct and had a duty to keep the students safe at school, the suits contend. The suits seek unspecified compensatory and punitive damages.
The initial lawsuit, filed March 15 on behalf of a Cleveland High junior, alleges that the boy was in the ninth and 10th grades when Archuleta inappropriately groped him during purported searches.
One such search occurred in a “secluded room,” the suit alleges.
The second suit, filed June 10, alleges that on at least three occasions between August 2019 and March 2020, Archuleta put his hands in the boy’s pockets and groped him.
The third suit, filed June 29, alleges that Archuleta fondled the boy “on multiple dates” between January 2019 and June 2021.