Mesa kindergarten teacher Thomas Washburn facing indecent exposure, child abuse charges

MESA, AZ - Police say a Mesa kindergarten teacher is facing indecent exposure and child abuse charges after removing a student's shirt leaving her naked from the waist up.

Mesa police spokesman Steve Berry said the incident happened on Wednesday at Adams Elementary School in Mesa.

Berry said teacher Thomas Washburn, 54, was reportedly upset and shouting in his class causing a 6-year-old girl to hide her face in her shirt.

Authorities said when Washburn told her to take her face out of her shirt and when she did not comply, he removed her shirt, leaving her naked from the waist up.

Berry said the girl was left naked for approximately 10 minutes crying as class continued. Eventually Washburn returned the girl's shirt so she could put it back on.

Police said when the girl's mother arrived after school to pick up the child, Washburn told her what he had done.

The girl's mother immediately contacted the principal's office. When school staff learned what happened, they called police.

Berry said the 6-year-old's mother described her daughter as "developmentally delayed" due to being born prematurely. She said the child was frightened by the shouting which caused her to hide in her shirt.

Detectives interviewed the girl and her mother and confirmed what had happened. Police located Washburn and transported him to Mesa police headquarters to be interviewed.

Authorities said Washburn invoked his rights and declined to answer any questions. He was booked at that time for one count of child abuse and one count of indecent exposure.

Berry said when the incident occurred, there was one adult aide in the classroom.

On Thursday, detectives added an additional 24 counts of indecent exposure for each of the students present at the time of the incident.

Berry said the investigation is ongoing, but at this time police are unaware of any similar crimes of this nature in the classroom.

On Thursday afternoon, Helen Hollands with the Mesa School District said that Washburn has been placed on administrative leave and that the district is working with Mesa police during their investigation.

Hollands said Washburn started at Adams Elementary in 2006 and has been there ever since as a kindergarten teacher.

Officials said a phone message went out to parents at the school briefing them on the situation and what happened.

Parents we spoke with say this alleged behavior is shocking.

"Those actions are not acceptable under any circumstances. I feel if you're a teacher, there are certain moral guidelines you should not cross, and I feel those were broken," said Sonya Coronado.

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