Tehachapi Unified School District animal abuse case sparks conversation

TEHACHAPI, Calif. - Current and former employees of Tehachapi Unified School District tell 23ABC they believe district staff instructed maintenance employees to carry out animal abuse. 

The employees say the so-called 'box of horrors' may only be the beginning -- and now they want the district to come clean about how nuisance animals were being dealt with.

"My boss made a remark that we would make it so they never reproduced," said Kris Harding, a Tehachapi High School custodian.

That remark is what prompted Harding to file a report. Harding says Animal Control told her that she needed to get pictures of the device that they were using to kill the animals.

Harding took pictures of the wooden box that was reportedly stationed behind the old school district office by a maintenance worker to trap and suffocate cats, skunks and raccoons.

"Somebody had to give that order, and I don't believe it's just the person that's been accused on his own," said Harding.

On Tuesday, former teacher Susan Ormsby pressed the school board on how this alleged abuse was allowed to happen. Some attendees at the meeting also raised concerns that Superintendent Lisa Gilbert's spouse is the supervisor of the arrested maintenance worker.

A former maintenance employee for the district didn't want to be identified as he told us how he was advised to deal with nuisance animals on school grounds. He says he was told to dunk the animals in water until they drowned, put them in a trash bag and throw them away.

"I refused one time and got yelled at by the maintenance supervisor's secretary to do it," said the former employee.

"If you're going to take the time to trap these cats, why can't you call Animal Control to come and pick them up?" asked Harding. "I'm hoping that when this is all said and done that the district will follow the law and things will be done the way they're supposed to."

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