A judge decided Wednesday that a well-known teacher at Clovis East High School will be tried by a jury on charges that he touched a student in his classroom in an inappropriate way.
During the preliminary hearing, Hmong language teacher Kenneth Kong Lee’s case was looked at by Judge Michael Idiart. He decided that there was enough proof to move forward with the case.
Lee is currently on leave from his job. He is being charged with one felony count of lewd act on a 14- or 15-year-old kid and one misdemeanor count of annoying or molesting any child under the age of 18.
One of Lee’s lawyers, Kathy Bird, said that if Lee was found guilty, he would have to file as a sex offender and would no longer be able to teach, which he has done for more than 20 years.
Nearly 40 allies, including some students, were in the courtroom with Bird and her co-counsel, Margarita Martinez-Baly.
The claimed victim, who is now 20 years old, said that Lee touched her breasts and buttocks in an inappropriate way. In the fall of 2018, the previous student was a freshman and took Lee’s Hmong language class.
She said that Lee touched her inappropriately at least 10 times during her freshman and sophomore years. All of these times happened in Lee’s classroom, in front of other students.
“He would do this side hug, and then he would put his hands on my back and slide it to the middle of my butt,” she said.
The senior deputy district attorney, Kristin S. Maxwell, asked the former student how she felt about being touched in an inappropriate way.
She said, “It made me feel strange.” “That’s not what a teacher should do to a student.”
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No one in the Class Noticed Anything
The ex-student also says that Lee put his hands on her breasts. She said that he gave her a hug when she was at his desk. As they stood face to face, he touched her shoulders with both hands. She said that he then put his right arm on her chest and pinched her breast.
Maxwell asked her why she had given him a hug in return.
“I didn’t want to act in any way that was rude,” she said.
During Martinez-Baly’s cross-examination, the former student said that no one in the classroom saw Lee touch her in a disrespectful way. She also lied to a Clovis police officer when she told him about the claimed assault. At first, she said she was wearing two jackets over a long-sleeved shirt when Lee reportedly pinched her breast. Later, she said she remembered taking off one of the jackets.
Bird also asked the police officer if she had talked to any of the students in the class where the claimed assault happened or anyone else who might have seen something. The cop said she didn’t talk to any of Lee’s students, who might have been able to back up what the former student said.
Lee’s next court date is May 11 in Dept. 31 for a held-to-answer hearing.
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