A former Kent School District substitute teacher faces two counts of fourth-degree assault for allegedly and offensively touching two 9-year-old girls when he worked in a fourth-grade classroom in September.
Surinderjit Mauli, 64, of Auburn, pleaded not guilty Tuesday to both charges in Kent Municipal Court, according to the city’s Law Department. City of Kent Prosecutor Tami Perdue decided to file two counts of fourth-degree assault against Mauli after the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office declined the case. Kent Police initially investigated the incident as a possible child molestation case, according to police reports.
“This case was reviewed by our office and it was determined it did not meet the threshold of our office’s filing standards of felony assault,” said a King County Prosecuting Attorney’s office spokesman in a Monday email. “We declined to file and referred the case to Kent Municipal Court.”
Perdue reviewed the case.
“The city felt there were sufficient facts to file misdemeanor criminal charges,” Perdue said in a Monday email.
Kent Municipal Court handles only misdemeanor cases, such as fourth-degree assault. Assaults in the first, second and third degree are considered felony cases with more serious penalties, if found guilty, and are handled in King County Superior Court.
The Kent School District removed Mauli from the substitute teacher availability list after receiving allegations of inappropriate behavior, said district spokeswoman Melissa Laramie in September. The district turned the case over to Kent Police.
Kent Police cited Mauli at-large on Nov. 12 for investigation of fourth-degree assault.
According to police reports, Mauli offensively touched two girls in the classroom on Sept. 20 at Martin Sortun Elementary School, 12711 SE 248th St. Principal Gregory Kroll told police that the mother of one of the girls told him about the incident. Kroll interviewed several students about what happened in the classroom that day. Police also interviewed the girls.
One girl reported that Mauli reportedly held her arms back as she was putting on her backpack and when he let go she had red marks on her wrists from him. She also said he hugged her from behind and pinned her arms to her side. He also stood over her at her desk and rubbed her arm up and down.
Mauli allegedly rubbed the girl’s stomach while telling her stories during math. He rubbed her back and as she walked away he swept his hand across the top of her buttocks, according to the report.
Another girl reported that Mauli had touched her on the thigh and patted her on the back.
Mauli told police during an interview that one girl came up to him because she had the hiccups and he lightly tapped the side of the head of the girl with his hand. He said another time two girls were not getting along so he tried to get them to shake hands. He denied touching, hugging, rubbing or patting any of the students except for the tap on the head.
A district employee told police that Mauli had been a substitute in the district since June 2018.
During Mauli’s court appearance, his attorney advised the court that he needed a Punjabi interpeter, so the case was delayed for a bit until an interpeter could come to assist, according to the city’s Law Department. The judge released Mauli on personal recognizance with certain conditions to comply with.