Former substitute teacher accused of molesting disabled girl in classroom closet

Mark Lugliani, 59, appears before a judge in Vancouver on Wednesday. He's charged with third-degree child molestation.

VANCOUVER, Wash. (KATU) - On Thursday, KATU confronted a former substitute teacher who's accused of molesting a disabled girl in a closet at Evergreen High School in Vancouver.

The case was first reported by the Columbian.

Before working as a teacher in Washington, KATU learned the suspect, Mark Lugliani, 59, was previously charged with a class C felony. The charge was later dismissed.

Washington's Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction said Lugliani has worked in schools in Vancouver and Battle Ground for more than 10 years. But he's only accused of wrongdoing at one of them.

Lugliani faced a judge in a Clark County courtroom on Wednesday.

He was charged with third-degree child molestation.

Investigators say while working as a substitute teacher at Evergreen High school on March 29, Lugliani forced a 15-year-old girl with disabilities into a classroom closet and molested her.

The alleged victim reportedly told police there were other occasions when Lugliani hugged her, kissed her and touched her inappropriately. She said the day after the incident in the closet, Lugliani tried to have sexual contact with her, but she refused. The girl did not see Lugliani again. But, on May 3, investigators say the substitute teacher told her that he was at the school and asked the girl to meet him. The girl reportedly told a school counselor that he had sexually assaulted her on March 29.

"We are concerned about the particular vulnerability not only in age but in physical limitations of the alleged victim," a prosecutor told the court Wednesday.

Investigators say the student has muscular dystrophy as well as another medical condition that results in smaller, weaker muscles.

"Our basis of our request is the facts, allegations in this case," the prosecutor said. "We ask for $40,000 bail."

The defense attorney argued for the judge to go easier on Lugliani, saying he had "virtually no criminal history." But the Judge Bernard F. Veljacic set bail at $40,000 and ordered Lugliani to have no contact with minors.

"Don't go to playgrounds, swimming pools, schools, arcades," Veljacic told him.

Lugliani agreed to the terms, later posted bail and was released.

Gail Spolar, an Evergreen Public Schools spokeswoman, sent KATU a statement saying in part:

"(Lugliani) was removed from the substitute list immediately after the district was informed that he was the subject of a police investigation involving potential misconduct with a minor.

We have cooperated with law enforcement in the investigation, and at this point, it appears to be confined to one incident which happened while he was a substitute in a general education high school classroom. As required by Washington state law, all staff, including substitutes, must pass background and fingerprint checks through FBI and Washington State Patrol databases before being allowed in schools. Those required checks were performed on Mr. Lugliani."

Spolar said the background check required by the state picks up criminal conviction information, not charges.

In 2006, court records say Lugliani was charged with second-degree theft. He was accused of stealing $1,200 from cash registers while working at Sears.

Because it was his first charge the judge allowed him to enter a diversion program and the charge was dismissed the next year.

A KATU crew went to Lugliani's home in Battle Ground and knocked on his door Thursday. After a reporter asked him about the case Lugliani said the crew was on private property so they left.

Spolar said Lugliani no longer works for the district.

Oregon's Teacher Standards and Practices Commission said it has no record of him working as an educator in Oregon.

Nathan Olson, a spokesman for Washington's Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction, said state rules are pretty clear.

"To receive a certificate in Washington state, an applicant must show 'good moral character and personal fitness," he explained via email. "Our Washington Administrative Code, Chapter 181-86-013, lists a number of offenses that would bar the applicant from receiving a certificate, including the physical neglect of a child or the sexual exploitation of a child. See Section (1) of http://apps.leg.wa.gov/wac/default.aspx?cite=181-86-013 for a complete list of offenses."

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