Police have accused a former school aide in Maryland of sexually abusing a female student who as a second-grader allegedly searched for candy in the aide’s pants pocket and touched his genitals.
Hector Hermes Lagos Toro, 58, was arrested and charged with sexual abuse of a minor and a third degree-sex offense for the alleged conduct at Stedwick Elementary School — the latest in a line of onetime Montgomery County school system employees accused of inappropriate contact with students.
Toro, who worked for the Montgomery County school system for more than a decade as a classroom aide and lunch-hour assistant, left the system in 2012 and is a longtime Spanish-language teacher at extracurricular foreign language programs across the county.
Court documents say he indicated to police that children at Stedwick Elementary frequently placed their hands in his pockets in search of treats.
The girl, now 15, contacted authorities last month after she looked through old yearbooks and found the former aide. She told police she remembered “his face and the way it looked” and that the incident occurred in the 2010 to 2011 school year. She told authorities she was allowed by the school aide to have her hand in his pocket for 30 seconds.
Police said that when they interviewed Toro, of Germantown, he stated that sometimes he had candy that he shared with certain students while he supervised indoor recess. Authorities said in court papers that Toro, widely known by the family name Lagos, recalled an incident similar to the one the student reported but stated that the alleged inappropriate contact was shorter.
Toro said that at least once, he may have told students to go into his pocket to retrieve candy, the documents state. He also said children came up to him and shoved their hands in his pockets “too quickly for him to react,” according to the court filing.
Toro was released on bond. Court records do not identify a lawyer for Toro.
School district officials said Toro worked from 2001 to 2012 at Stedwick in Montgomery Village.
Toro worked at a summer school program at South Lake Elementary in Gaithersburg from 2001 to 2006, district officials said.
“I know that our community finds the allegations as disturbing and upsetting as I do,” said LaVerne Kimball, associate superintendent of elementary schools, in a letter to families. “We expect and require all who work for [Montgomery County Public Schools] to be held to a high standard of character, and these allegations certainly violate that.”
Most recently, Toro worked as a Spanish-language instructor for before- and after-school foreign language programs run out of county elementary schools — one called FLES and the other, Foreign Language for Kids.
Since 2000, he worked with the FLES program operated by Big Learning, which was created by Montgomery’s countywide council of PTAs. This school year, he taught with FLES at Potomac Elementary and at Thurgood Marshall Elementary and Whetstone Elementary, both in Gaithersburg.
Since 2015, he also worked for Foreign Language for Kids, an educational company in Potomac, through which he taught at schools including Wilson Wims Elementary in Clarksburg, Carderock Springs Elementary in Bethesda and Seven Locks Elementary in Potomac.
Both language programs dismissed him when they learned of the charges this week. Both said he had passed background checks, and administrators had not observed problems.
“It was really a surprise and extremely upsetting and concerning,” said Kit Strauss, the founder of Foreign Language for Kids. “We take this very seriously.”
Jane de Winter, executive director of Big Learning, sent emails Tuesday to families of current students, notifying them of the arrest.
“Our primary concern is for the safety and well-being of our students, and we’re shocked and devastated,” she said.
School and police officials asked that parents or others with information call the special victims unit of the Montgomery County Police Department at 240-773-5400.