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Teacher allegedly punished girl by removing her shirt

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Thomas Washburn

MESA, AZ (KPHO) — A Mesa Kindergarten teacher faces 26 counts of indecent exposure and one count of child abuse after he allegedly removed a 6-year-old girl’s shirt that left her naked from the waist up in a packed classroom.

Thomas Washburn, 54, who teaches at Adams Elementary School, was arrested Wednesday when the incident reportedly occurred.

Police said something upset Washburn, who started shouting in the classroom filled with two dozen youngsters. The outburst frightened the victim and she hid her face in the top of her shirt, officers said.

The victim’s mother said her daughter was born prematurely and is “developmentally delayed,” according to a police report.

Officers said Washburn told the girl to take her face out of the shirt and when she did not comply, he went to her and completely removed her shirt, leaving her naked from the waist up in front of her classmates for about 10 minutes.

The girl broke down crying, police said. Washburn eventually returned her clothing.

When the victim’s mother arrived after school to pick up the child, Washburn told the parent what he had done, police said. She was extremely upset and immediately contacted the principal’s office, officers said.

Detectives arrested Washburn, who was taken to Mesa Police Headquarters for an interview. He declined to answer any of the detective’s questions.

He was booked at that time for one count of child abuse and one count of indecent exposure. Police said at the time of the incident, there was one adult aide in the classroom.

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

Mesa Public Schools issued the following statement Thursday afternoon:

“Thomas Washburn has been placed on paid administrative leave and is assigned to home. The district will use the police findings as the basis for any future employment action against Washburn.

“Our first priority is the safety and security of our students. Mesa Police Department is leading the investigation, and we are working cooperatively with them. Please contact Mesa PD for information regarding the incident and investigation.

“Washburn has been employed by Mesa Public Schools since August 2006. His only assignment has been a teacher at Adams Elementary.”

A profile of Washburn on the school’s website quotes Washburn saying, in part:

“Having been certified for foster care and licensed for adoption, I am looking forward to becoming a single father for the first time and am waiting the placement of children in my home. In the meantime, I have enjoyed the opportunity of taking care of several children on a respite basis.”

Authorities said their investigation is continuing.

By Phil Benson


    • Jamie Bartberger

      Agreed, where was the aid? and why didn’t they come to that childs defense…and if this were an “average” normal person on the street….would he be on “paid leave” and sent home?…Awww HELL NO he wouldn’t be!!..He be in JAIL….

  • Sylvia

    Waiting for placement of children in his home? I shudder to think! I wonder if there are other incidents like this since he has been a employed there since 2006.

  • dana

    In no way shape or form do I condone what this man did! But I do know kids today are spoiled and most do not have respect for their elders! I would be upset if This were my daughter for sure! However before all you angry people on here hang this man, get some facts! And once you get the facts, think before you speak because any single one if us could find ourself in this position someday for something we might say to a child? Me personally, I don’t talk to children anymore, sad, but too many times when todays kids dont get their way, they tell lies, and we all see it on the news. I’m not saying this is a lie though because it seems to be so, and if it is a truth 100% then he will be punished accordingly. But you angry people on here are hanging him and dont know the whole story! Sometimes as moms, we are blind to our own! Fact! e

    • Emma

      Even if the kids nowadays are spoiled, this man should not have taken off the little girls shirt…. in front of the whole classroom. They said she is developmentally delayed also, so obviously she isn’t going listen as well, especially when an angry man is going off on the whole classroom. I can see why she was hiding in her shirt. The poor girl felt like she was in trouble. I am not trying to be rude to you because you can have an opinion, but you were telling us to know the facts?? I am pretty sure there is more than enough facts in this article to confirm that what this man did was completely wrong.

    • Transcender

      @dana ~~ Are you out of your mind? You reduce the conversation regarding HIS actions to “Children don’t respect their elders”?????? Before you have a spastic seizure, I’ll remind you that there is plenty of room to discuss this without hanging the man, or as you suggest, a ‘blame the victim’ attitude. It was not the child telling her mother what had happened… it was Mr. Washburn himself. He told the mother what he did. The mother went to report it – and I’m glad she did. Who knows where this might have led Mr. Washburn, had his behavior continued, unchecked. He needs to be removed from foster care and adoption certification, in order to protect children in the future. Foster children have already suffered enough trauma,- that’s why they’re in foster care – and they don’t need any additional traumas visited upon them, while they’re being promised a “safe place.”

  • dana

    I just want to add, this man should not probably adopt kids if he is angered so easily. I’m not trying to justify his actions either with my first comment at all. I would be upset if it were my daughter our granddaughter but I know kids and even my own and would question them too!

    • CuriousG

      I’ll agree with you that some child don’t respect their elders. In fact, I’ll say i may not like half the children I see or meet but that does not give me the right to disrepect and embarass them. I have enough facts to form my own opinion, that is my right. I think this man need jail time. His need to feel a little bit of the disrepect and embarassment that he inflicted on this child.

  • Liz Warfield

    I don’t care what the child did. He had NO right to remove ANY of her clothing unless it was on fire and it was the only way to save her life!!! And even then he should have covered her up immediately. At 6 years old I was extremely shy and would have been traumatized for life. This man should not be able to teach any longer and never adopt kids. It is one thing to make her stand in a corner or send her to the principal. If it were one of my great nieces or nephews I would do everything in my power to have him put in jail, along with the other adult in the room who did nothing to help the child!

  • Joanie Bruce

    I wonder how many other children he has abused in this fashion. If I were the mother I would sue him, the school, and the aide that was in the room with him. I hope this guy burns in hell!

  • Sheryl

    He snapped. Whatever major life event that happened at this time it caused him to snap. There is no previous history (assuming here –as I don’t live in Mesa), but i am a retired veteran teacher. We have lives outside the classroom. Sometimes our life is effected by events we have no control over, but we go to school and teach anyway. I think we need to practice a bit of grace, and wait to see what mitigating events led up to his “snapping”. While this will not excuse this very demeaning action on this child and classroom, nor erase any mental injury that was caused by his action, it will allow us to practice a bit of grace. We all have a ‘tipping point’ when what life throws at us unbalances what we throw back. This could happen to anyone. I DO NOT CONDONE what HE DID. I do have a problem with the physical violence that is threatened towards him without knowing the circumstances. I am a voice for GRACE. In this situation GRACE will go a long way to soothe the children who were caught in this situation. They will see how Grace-filled adults respond to real-life events. IF this is NOT handled with grace. The children then learn to fear being real. They use distraction, lying and manipulation to make them look good. They learn to BULLY. THEY could be leaning GRACE.

  • Mr. Lawman

    Charge the aide as an accomplice, send the teacher to rot in prison, never allow this man to adopt children, and revoke his teaching licence. Not only should the adults in that classroom rot in hell so should the school administration office staff that put him on leave.

  • Cassie

    We don’t know everything. What if the Aide didn’t report it right away because he didn’t want to leave the class alone with teacher??

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