Former school principal testifies in civil suit case

VISTA — A civil trial in its third week aims to prove that for seven years the staff at Carlsbad Unified School District was negligent in supervising former elementary school teacher Raymond Firth.Firth was sentenced in April 2010 to three years and eight months in prison and was also required to register as a sex offender following his conviction of molesting second-and-third grade girls while teaching at Pacific Rim Elementary School.

The attorneys for the two plaintiffs claim that Firth didn’t try to conceal his behavior and did it routinely and repeatedly for the entire time of his employment at the school without ever receiving a written warning or discipline despite several complaints issued to the school’s then-principal Stephen Ahle.

“You didn’t have anything anywhere that detailed complaints about Mr. Firth?” Attorney David Ring asked Ahle during the testimony.

“That’s true,” Ahle said. “I had no reason to write it down in a memo because I counseled him and he changed his behavior.”

Ahle has been a principal for the Carlsbad Unified School District for 30 years and is set to retire at the end of the month.

He has also taught a college class in San Marcos since 1997, and one of the topics in the Introduction to Teaching course is keeping professional boundaries between the teacher and the student.

He said in court that it is an expectation for all teachers to have professional space.

In 2006, Gwen Adams, who served as part-time assistant principal at the school, told Ahle that she had witnessed kids sitting on Firth’s lap, while she performed a classroom walkthrough.

“She said she entered the room and kids were sitting on his lap and all around,” Ahle said.

He then went to Firth’s classroom to “go see,” he said.

“I asked him if the kids were sitting on his lap. He said ‘yes,’ and I said ‘I don’t want you doing that anymore,” Ahle testified.

He said he did not create a memo about it.

On Sept. 10, 2007, Torrie Norton, assistant superintendent for the district, spoke to Ahle by phone, saying that there were serious allegations made against Firth and requested that Ahle write down any contact that Firth had had with children.

Ahle did write a memo following the request. Ahle said during his testimony that he wrote the memo from memory.

Jurors were shown the memo, which included three separate incidents in which a parent and two staff members approached Ahle with concerns about Firth; one from a parent in 2001, another from an after-school daycare employee in 2004 and the 2006 incident from Adams.

 

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