A former teacher at Garden Grove Elementary School in Simi Valley pleaded not guilty Wednesday to having a sexual relationship with a student. Parents were shocked to hear the news, saying she was a “phenomenal” teacher. School officials reassured parents they have taken every precaution to protect the students. Ted Chen reports from Simi Valley for the NBC4 News at 4:30 p.m. on June 12, 2013.
A former elementary school teacher in Simi Valley pleaded not guilty Wednesday to charges related to an alleged sexual relationship with a student under age 14.
The arrest of Malia Brooks, 32, was announced by the Simi Valley Police Department on Tuesday evening. She had been a sixth-grade teacher at Garden Grove Elementary School since 2004, police and school district officials said at a Wednesday morning news conference.
The sole alleged male victim was a student at the school, but officials would not say if he was in Brooks’ classes. The school ranges from kindergarten through sixth grade.
Brooks’ bail was set at $2 million after prosecutors said she was a flight risk. Brooks pleaded not guilty during an arraignment hearing Wednesday morning at Ventura County Superior Court.
Outside the courtroom, her attorney, Ron Bamieh, said Brooks "has suffered from a mental illness."
"We've had her diagnosed and she's in treatment," Bamieh said. "My guess is a lot of the charges precipitated from that illness."
Brooks was charged with one count of a lewd act upon a child, one count of oral copulation of a person under 14, and three counts of genital penetration by a foreign object with a person under 14 years of age when the suspect is more than 10 years older than the victim.
Simi Valley police said they were alerted to the alleged inappropriate relationship on Feb. 22 by school officials, who said the conduct had been going on for several months. School officials would not say how they found out about the relationship.
Brooks resigned June 5, officials said at the news conference. She is pictured at right in her booking photo.
It was not clear whether the alleged sexual relations occurred on campus.
The Simi Valley Unified School District Superintendent Kathy Scroggin said in prepared statement Wednesday that Brooks "has been evaluated until now as an exemplary teacher."
Brooks taught at the school's Impact Academy, from which she was placed on paid administrative leave on Feb. 21, the district said.
"I would like to reassure parents and guardians that the school and the district has taken every precaution to ensure the safety of students and staff at our schools," Scroggin said in the statement.
One parent who had a child in Brooks' class called her a "phenomenal person."
"Whatever it is -- just, my experience with her, she was phenomenal," said mother Lina Centano.
The Simi Valley Police Department said in a news release Wednesday that "there were no indications that Malia Brooks had other victims."
The release said police had "negotiated with Brooks and she surrendered to authorities at the Simi Valley Police Station at 4:00 p.m. on June 11."
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