Ex-teacher gets 3 years, 8 months for molesting students

In a brief letter to her molester — a former teacher at Pacific Rim Elementary School — a young girl managed to capture the gravity of a situation that shattered the innocence of three victims and would send a man they once trusted to prison.

“Dear Mr. Firth,” the girl wrote in a letter read by her mother in court. “I am appalled by and upset with you for what you did.”

She explained that Raymond Firth’s behavior, while working as a teacher for the Carlsbad Unified School District, had caused many children to suffer and for that he deserved to be sent to prison.

“You purposely made people think you were nice so you could do this to kids …,” the girl said in her letter. “I think I am a hero for coming forward and that you are a villain for doing something like that to me in the first place.”

Firth, 39, was sentenced Monday to three years and eight months in prison. He pleaded guilty March 19 to two counts of sexual battery and one count of false imprisonment, all felonies. The charges relate to three young victims in his third-grade classrooms during the 2006-07 and 2007-08 school years.

Firth will have to register as a sex offender for life. Had he been convicted of all the charges he faced originally, he could have been sentenced to up to 18 years in prison.

Vista Superior Court Judge Daniel Goldstein said during the hearing that he approved of the deal struck between the attorneys in the case because it meant Firth would go to prison without requiring the victims to testify at trial.

“You violated such a precious position of trust that a teacher has with students,” Goldstein said, adding that Firth’s actions will likely cause his victims to question their self-worth for the rest of their lives.

Goldstein said Firth also hurt his co-workers and eroded the confidence of parents “who send their children to school and hope for the best.”

Firth did not speak in the courtroom. His attorney, Robert Boyce, made no arguments on the record and declined to comment further after the hearing.

Parents of two of Firth’s victims said they agreed to the sentence, but were not satisfied that it represented a proper punishment. The children are not being identified because they are minors and victims of a sex crime.

A young girl told the judge in court that she was molested by Firth but had been too afraid to come forward. She said Firth later did the same thing to her sister.

“You ruined my sister’s childhood and mine as well,” the girl said. “You touched me and groped me and said it was normal and I would be OK. I wasn’t.”

Deputy District Attorney Kelly Mok said the girl was not one of the victims named in the case. Mok declined to elaborate, saying those details were confidential.

The woman who read her daughter’s letter in court said she believed school officials were more interested in protecting their reputations than the children and that she had received calls from school officials asking her and her daughter not to talk about the case.

John Roach, superintendent of the Carlsbad Unified School District, said in an interview that the district, Carlsbad police and the District Attorney’s Office agreed that the district should hold off on informing parents of the case until it concluded. Roach said school officials did not inform parents of the Firth case until last week.

Parents of students at Pacific Rim Elementary and at Aviara Oaks Middle School, where Pacific Rim students go on to middle school, were notified that Firth was to be sentenced Monday. Roach said he encouraged parents in the telephone message to contact him if they had any questions.

“We walk a fine line of trying to protect our students and making sure we’re not doing anything that interferes with the legal proceedings that are under way,” he said.

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