Valley school administrator accused of sexually harassing student, employees
Wed, 22 Aug 2012 05:27:52 GMT —
Claims of sexual harassment followed a South Texas school administrator, several female co-workers came forward at his current workplace, Ignite Public Schools (IPS) -- accusing him of unwanted attention and continued harassment.
Rigoberto Abrego is the current chief financial officer for IPS, formerly known as IRRA, Inc.
They operate several charter schools throughout the Valley, but their central offices are located in Edinburg.
Before working for IPS Abrego worked as assistant superintendent at Edinburg CISD.
However, he resigned in 2010 amid an investigation into sexual harassment at that district.
One of his alleged victims agreed to speak to Action 4 News under a concealed identity, to protect her from retribution.
"It was just constantly, everyday harassing me and it was just unwanted basically," the woman referred to as Monica said.
She worked with students at the central offices for Ignite Public Schools in Edinburg.
It was there, she said, she became the target of sexual advances from the chief financial officer.
Monica was one of several women that filed grievances back in May against Rigoberto Abrego for sexual harassment.
"It's been like one of the worst traumas that I've ever been through, she recalled. You never ever want to be in that situation."
Action 4 News obtained copies for two of those grievances.
They detailed the alleged harassment.
Inside one report, the victim stated that Abrego walked into her office and asked her how she was.
"I replied I need to go get a massage and then he proceeded to rub my shoulders, the woman reporter, After this, he would pass by and ask if I needed a massage.
But it was not just employees; a student also filed one of the grievances.
She stated that Abrego would purposefully glance at her chest area on numerous occasions, including the very first time they met.
"I quickly pulled my shirt up, I didn't know how else to react, she reacted. I didn't know what to think, just hoped it'd never happened again. But it did."
Action 4 news emailed and called Superintendent Fernando Gomez numerous times, but he refused requests for an interview.
Instead, he issued a statement:
"Ignite Public Schools & Community Service Centers take any kind of allegations involving inappropriate behavior very seriously and will not rest until a full and thorough investigation has been conducted and the appropriate measures have been taken to resolve these allegations."
But Monica has little faith that something will happen.
"Someone did pull him aside and let him know but he didn't care," she said about Gomez and the grievances.
The IPS employee standards of conduct on sexual harassment and abuse sets up a three level process to investigate complaints.
The first level is with supervisors, the second level with the CEO/Superintendent, and the third level with the school board.
In all three levels, the employee filing the grievance must be present, according to the standards of conduct, but Monica said that never happened.
"It TMs like a slap in the face basically, or like nobody cares, she said. I mean we put our trust in the system and the system let us down big time."
Action 4 News spoke to the women that also filed grievances.
They agreed with Monica and said nothing had been done about it.
Raymundo Valdez, the legal counsel for IPS, said one of the three grievances had been resolved, but that the school board was looking into the other two.
In the meantime, Abrego has continued working at the central offices and has not been placed on leave or under any sanctions, according to Valdez.