Kindergarten teacher in 'shirt' incident released

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By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman
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. -- The Mesa kindergarten teacher arrested Wednesday after he allegedly removed a female student's shirt in class has been released on his own recognizance.

He does have to wear an ankle bracelet for electronic monitoring.

At his initial appearance in court Thomas Washburn, 54, told the judge, "The past two days have really been a whirlwind for me."

When asked by the judge about any criminal history, Washburn said, "I have one moving violation back in Michigan, failure to yield to an emergency vehicle," said Washburn. He went on to clarify that he had no criminal history.

As part of the conditions of his release Washburn is not allowed to have any contact with his students, their parents or any children under the age of 18.

Washburn did ask the judge if he could return to the school to remove his teaching materials from the classroom.

"I had a huge investment in my teaching materials that are still in my classroom at school," said Washburn, "Provided I do not go there during regular school hours and I have permission from the superintendent can I retrieve my teaching materials?"

The judge said Washburn can only return to the school with the consent from school officials.

Washburn, who told the judge he lives alone, also asked if he would be allowed to go to the grocery store and the gym.

"I have been working out at Lifetime Fitness for the last six months with a goal of losing one hundred pounds within the next year. Is that something that can be accommodated?" Washburn asked.

The judge told Washburn he will need to get permission from court officials to do either of those things. 

The judge also told Washburn that he did not qualify for a court-appointed attorney because with his income he should be able to hire his own attorney.

“I can’t imagine him deliberately wanting to harm a child,” said neighbor Jonathan Bailey.

“I just know Tom to be a gentle giant kind of a guy and very nice man, and he really does car about kids,” said Bailey.

However, a number of other parents are outraged. Mesa Public Schools told 3TV the district says they’ve been fielding calls from all across the state.

“It’s frightening that there are individuals out there who have credentials who think that that’s okay,” said a mom who declined to be identified. “I don’t know how he thought he could ever get away with it let alone think it was okay. It’s disgusting.”

The Incident

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

According to court records released Friday, the student said she was crying and the other students were laughing at her.

The teacher's aide told police he did not see Washburn remove the victim's shirt but he saw the victim after her shirt was removed.

He said the student was crying and asking for her mother.

The aide also told police that Washburn talked to the other students about how important it is that they wear their clothing properly.

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.

Washburn has a court hearing in this case scheduled for Jan. 30. 

Kindergarten teacher accused of removing female student's shirt in class