PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -- A Phoenix elementary school teacher was arrested for sexual abuse after multiple students came forward saying he inappropriately touched them, according to court documents.

A student of Manuel Gavina, a teacher at Capitol Elementary School, came forward on Dec. 9 saying he touched and rubbed her breast over the clothes while he taught in the classroom, court documents allege. She told Gavina to stop but the touching continued, court documents said. The student said she was aware of Gavina doing similar things to another victim. 

[WATCH: Parents react]

"It’s kind of disgusting to even have a pedophile like that with our kids," said Jesse Soto, who says his wife works at the school.  "I guess that’s why we have laws. I think justice will prevail."

That second victim said multiple incidents occurred last year where Gavina touched her breast over the clothes while he taught, according to court documents. The victim reported the incidents to the school and advised of another victim as well. 

A third victim said approximately two years ago, multiple times Gavina touched her breast over the clothes while he taught in the classroom, court documents allege. She and the second victim reported the incident to school personnel and the touching stopped.

"It’s very chilling," said the mom of a fifth-grader at the school. "It’s chilling to even ... I don’t even have words to actually express. It’s hard. It’s hard."

Gavina was arrested on Dec. 10. During an interview with investigators, he acknowledged knowing the victims and also said there was a fourth girl in his math class who complained of him touching her inappropriately, court documents said. Gavina said each girl is or was in his math class. He said he might have accidentally touched their clothed breasts with his elbow or hand as he was helping them with classwork and when he complimented them, according to court documents.

"Manuel said two or three years ago, he was confronted by his wife and a coworker about the girls allegations, but agreed the touching has not stopped," court documents said.

Investigators asked how many times he has touched his students' breasts over the years and Gavina said "hundreds of times," court documents said. He then chose to end the interview, according to court documents.

He was booked into jail on three counts of sex abuse. The Phoenix Elementary School District said Gavina is on paid administrative leave pending an investigation.

"On December 9th, our school principal received a report from a student of inappropriate touching," reads a letter from the school. "The principal immediately followed the process for 'duty to report' and Phoenix Police Department was contacted.  The teacher was put on leave and had not returned to the campus." 

"You never know who’s working at your kid’s school," said the dad of a kindergarten student. "They try to do their best to vet them or whatever it is they do, but you never know who’s going to be working with your kids. It’s a risk every day I guess."

In a statement, the District said, "The District learned of additional allegations through the media today. The District had requested all documentation from the police investigation, which is ongoing. The District is carefully investigating the allegations regarding prior school years. At this time, the current District administration has no knowledge of allegations prior to December 9, 2019, when the principal followed the duty to report."

 


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