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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.


1 comment

saddayandmakehimpaytoo February 26, 2013 at 11:42 pm

Ahle should be held accountable, his handling of this situation by not documenting and “I counseled him and he changed his behavior” the girls and their parents would disagree. This went on because just a talk will stop a child molester from groping children he cannot be same to think that. Ahle should be paying part of that million, that the district will now pay but instead our children will pay the price, more cuts to cover his handling of the matter. The district budget will suffer because Ahle was just plain lazy an I am sure he has excuses a mile long as to why he handled it the way he did and can talk circles around it to put the blame on someone else and justify why he did what he did. Once again he dropped the ball then they transfer him to Poinsettia to get him out of there and look at the mess the new principle is cleaning up there. I hope Ahle gets held accountable, he let this happen due to his lack of leadership and being able to take the control, since his excuses are I wish I could but I can’t and here are the million reasons why, unions they would never let us, the district office will never let us, so is that his excuse for not reporting this from the beginning? Or is he just really that lazy and this one bit him bad in the end and he has a hand in the lives of these children who are forever changed and he could have stopped it but chose not to, a talk was all he thought was appropriate for children being touched. Sad day and once again as parents we are loosing faith that our children are being protected and something has to change. Watching more money being flushed out to sea. Our district is in horrible financial state they need to bring in an outside group to audit the heck out of them and make them be held accountable since their mistakes are costing millions.

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