Montgomery County police made a public appeal Thursday for information from potential victims and witnesses who may know more about the actions of a former county substitute teacher accused of inappropriately touching students.
Jose Pineda, 50, of Gaithersburg was arrested this fall on allegations of inappropriately touching a 12-year-old girl at Roberto Clemente Middle School on Sept. 30. Following parent notification and media reports in November, other students came forward, and police filed charges involving three additional alleged victims, one of them a former student now in her 20s.
At a news conference Thursday, police disclosed that, in addition to four alleged victims noted in court documents, nine other girls have come forward to say that Pineda had touched them. Police said those allegations did not rise to criminal charges but have deepened their investigation.
Police said the incidents involving the nine girls occurred in 2014 at Ridgeview Middle and Gaithersburg Elementary.
“He’s had opportunity and a lot of access to young people,” said Montgomery County Police Capt. Paul Starks.
Pineda’s attorney had no comment on the case Thursday.
Pineda was arrested in October and charged with sexual abuse of a minor and a third-degree sex offense involving one student.
Additional charges were filed in November after two additional students said they were inappropriately touched last school year at Ridgeview Middle School. Another alleged victim said she was inappropriately touched in 2004 at Forest Oak Middle School, according to arrest records.
The police department’s call for information about Pineda comes amid a period of heightened concern among Montgomery parents over how the school system handles such allegations.
Before the Clemente case became public, school leaders had been under fire for not notifying parents for nearly a month of the alleged inappropriate touching of a student by a contract worker at John T. Baker Middle School in Damascus.
The Baker principal has said she was trying to protect the victim’s privacy and apologized to parents.
Speaking with reporters Thursday afternoon, Montgomery County School Superintendent Joshua P. Starr said he was committed to making improvements in how the district handles cases and cited efforts including a new work group, new training for employees, a review of procedures for principals and a database to track allegations.
“A vast majority of the time, we get it right,” Starr said. “However, recent incidents have caused me to believe that there is more that we can do to improve our processes and procedures.”
Montgomery school officials have said that Pineda had worked as a bus operator from 2000 to 2003, as a substitute teacher from 2003 to 2006, and then again as a substitute starting in 2013.School officials have sent letters home to parents at 20 schools where Pineda worked since the start of the 2013-2014 school year, asking that those with knowledge about possible inappropriate interactions report them to police or school officials.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story misidentified one school where students had reported touching that did not rise to the level of criminal conduct. Montgomery County police initially said it was Gaithersburg Middle School, but later corrected that information to say it was Gaithersburg Elementary School.