Polk school janitor accused of inappropriately touching 6-year-old girl

POLK COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – A Polk County school janitor was arrested by deputies Tuesday on a charge of lewd conduct.

Deputies say Jose Baez-Ortiz, 49, of Davenport, inappropriately touched a 6-year-old girl at Davenport School of the Arts, where Baez-Ortiz works as a janitor.

According to an arrest affidavit, Baez-Ortiz approached the victim as she was eating lunch and touched her underneath her skirt.

A witness working in the cafeteria saw the suspect next to the victim and became suspicious.

Detectives conducted an interview with Baez-Ortiz at his home. He told them he knew he was accused of inappropriate behavior with a student, but denied touching any student.

The suspect told detectives he accidently touched the victim’s leg as he stood up. Baez-Ortiz told detectives he thought the victim was beautiful and wanted to touch her, and that he was having problems with an ill family member.

The suspect then allegedly confessed to detectives, according to the affidavit. Baez-Ortiz was arrested and booked in the Polk County Jail.

“The charges against this employee are disturbing,” said Superintendent Jacqueline M. Byrd in a statement. “This type of behavior is totally unacceptable and will not be tolerated. I have reviewed information from the Sheriff’s Office. I am immediately suspending this employee without pay and will recommend to the School Board that his employment be terminated. Our students’ wellbeing and safety is our primary concern. We are cooperating fully with the Sheriff’s Office in its investigation and urge anyone with relevant information to contact law enforcement.”

The statement said an automated telephone call is being sent to the parents and guardians of students at Davenport School of the Arts to make them aware of his arrest and this investigation:

Dear parents and family members,

This message is being sent on behalf of Davenport School of the Arts. We want to notify you that one of our custodial employees, Jose Baez-Ortiz, was arrested today by the Polk County Sheriff’s Office on allegations of inappropriate touching of a student. We have notified the proper authorities and are cooperating fully with the Sheriff’s Office as they continue their investigation. If you have any information to report, please contact Lieutenant Ian Rylott at 863-298-6327. We take these allegations very seriously and will work to ensure the safety of our students. Thank you.

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