PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Police have arrested a Providence middle school teacher and charged him with child molestation after two female students accused him of inappropriately touching them at school.
Court records obtained by Target 12 reveal that Joseph Teno, 51, has been charged with two counts of second-degree child molestation.
Teno, a math teacher at Esek Hopkins Middle School, was placed on paid leave in December following the allegation from the first student, according to court documents.
Police said officers initially responded to the Providence public middle school on Dec. 8 after a sixth grade girl reported Teno had inappropriately touched her. Two days later, when interviewed by doctors at Lifespan’s Lawrence Aubin Center, the girl recounted that Teno had stroked her hair and told her, “you look like your mother.”
When asked how he knew her mother, the girl said Teno told her, “all Puerto Rican women have a look.” The girl said he later touched her thigh and she could feel his genitals pushing up against her left thigh and knee through his clothes, according to the police affidavit.
The girl later asked her friends why her teacher would do something like that, according to the report, and they told her, “he’s done that to a lot of girls.”
The Providence Public School Department subsequently placed Teno on leave, but officers were called to the school again nearly a month later after a second girl came forward saying Teno had inappropriately touched her, the affidavit said.
The eighth grade student said the unwanted attention began in November when Teno started calling her “fine,” “bad” and “sexy.” The girl said Teno later joined in on her gym class where he tried to hug her and touch her breasts over her clothing.
When she pulled away, she told doctors he would say, “Oh girl, come on,” according to the court records.
Later, in a classroom setting, the girl said Teno came up behind her, pressed up against her backside and suggested he was sexually aroused at the time. On a separate occasion, the girl said Teno told her, “I would marry you,” and there were several times where he would look at her, bite his lip and grab his genitals.
When asked what she wanted to happen to Teno, the eighth-grader told doctors, “I just do not want him working at the school with kids.”
Teno was arraigned in Providence District Court on Thursday and released on personal recognizance.
Teno could not immediately be reached for comment. The phone number listed for him in the court complaint was disconnected, and his listed address in Warwick is a warehouse, not a residence.
According to the Rhode Island Department of Education’s online portal, Teno received an emergency one-year certification on Sept. 20 of last year to teach middle school math for the current academic year. (The state issues emergency certifications when districts can’t find a certified teacher to fill a job.)
In a statement, Providence Public Schools spokesperson Nick Domings said Teno is still on paid leave.
“We take these allegations and the safety of our students extremely serious and took swift action to ensure the person in question had no further contact with students,” Domings said.