Kindergarten teacher accused of removing female student's shirt

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Thomas Washburn, 54 By Mike Gertzman Thomas Washburn, 54 By Mike Gertzman
By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman
Thomas Washburn, 54 By Mike Gertzman Thomas Washburn, 54 By Mike Gertzman
By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman

MESA, Ariz. -- A Mesa kindergarten teacher was arrested Wednesday and booked for 25 counts of indecent exposure and one count of child abuse stemming from an incident in his classroom.

Thomas Washburn, 54, teaches kindergarten at Adams Elementary School in Mesa where the incident occurred on Wednesday.

The victim, a 6-year-old female, was in class with 24 classmates.

Washburn was reportedly upset and shouting in the class causing the victim to hide her face in the top of her shirt.

The victim's mother described her daughter as "developmentally delayed" due to being born prematurely.

It appears that based on shouting, the child was frightened and hiding in her shirt.

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

The victim was left in that state for approximately 10 minutes crying as class continued.

Eventually Washburn returned her clothing and that was the end of the incident.

When the victim's mother arrived after school to pick up the child, Washburn told the parent what he had done.

She was extremely upset and immediately contacted the principal's office.

When staff learned of the incident, they contacted Mesa police and the investigation was opened.

Detectives interviewed the victim and her mother and confirmed what had happened.

Washburn was transported to the Mesa Police Department headquarters to be interviewed.

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.

At the time of the incident, there was one adult aide in the classroom.

Thursday morning, detectives continued the investigation and ultimately added an additional 24 counts of indecent exposure for each of the students present at the time of the incident.

"He deserves what he got," said Allison Burkhead, whose child was in Washburn's class. "No little kid should have to go through that."

Burkhead also said Washburn has always seemed "a little off."

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

Mesa Public Schools and the Mesa Police Department are working cooperatively on the investigation to ensure that all available information is gathered and to ensure the safe education of the children attending the Mesa Public Schools.

The district said Washburn, who has taught at Adams Elementary since 2006, has been placed on paid administrative leave.