CrimProf Blog

Editor: Kevin Cole
Univ. of San Diego School of Law

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Teachers Aide Sentenced to 6 Months For Stealing An Autistic Girl's Lunch Money

From A teacher's assistant was sentenced to six months in jail this week for stealing lunch money from a disabled student at Camarillo High School.

Kristen Rene Santoyo, 37, was also given four years probation during a hearing Tuesday before Ventura County Superior Court Judge James Cloninger. In addition, Santoyo was ordered to pay $285 restitution to the student and to attend at least one year of weekly child abuse counseling sessions.

The victim, a 14-year-old high school freshman who suffers from severe autism and cannot speak, was sent to school with a lunch box that had snacks and $5 to purchase a cafeteria meal, prosecutors said. After she came home from school hungry and went straight to the refrigerator multiple times, her parents grew suspicious and contacted the school principal and teacher.

School officials then alerted police, who conducted a three-day investigation using a hidden camera that showed Santoyo on two occasions stealing the student's lunch money from her backpack. Santoyo was charged with stealing the victim's lunch money on 57 separate occasions between September and November, when she was caught and the complaint was filed, authorities said.

"The whole thing is pretty hard to put into words," said Shawn Spitzer, the victim's mother. "We trusted this caregiver, the assistant teacher, with our child, the most precious thing we have, and she violated that trust day after day by victimizing her. And this was a victim that couldn't speak, that couldn't tell anybody she was hungry or that her teacher was stealing from her." Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

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