Senator Calls for Investigation into School "Sex Abuse" Cases

By Jason Kandel
|  Monday, Jan 28, 2013  |  Updated 10:16 PM PDT
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Former California senator Martha Escutia wants an investigation into the child sex abuse cases in the LA School District that seem to overwhelmingly involve Latino children. The LAUSD responded that the district is

Patrick Healy

Former California senator Martha Escutia wants an investigation into the child sex abuse cases in the LA School District that seem to overwhelmingly involve Latino children. The LAUSD responded that the district is "committed to providing the safest schools possible to all our students." Patrick Healy reports for the NBC4 News at 5 p.m. on Jan. 28, 2013.

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A former California state senator has called for an independent investigation into what she says is "alleged rampant sex abuse" of Latino students in the LAUSD.

Former California Democratic State Senator Martha Escutia, an attorney and child sex abuse survivors advocate, has called for the investigation in the wake of what she said was a "pattern of alleged sexual abuse" perpetrated against students by teachers and other employees at LAUSD schools.

“There’s a pattern of all these sexual abuse scandals popping up everywhere in poor, minority neighborhoods," she said at a press conference outside the Wilmington school where a teacher was arrested last week. "The question I’m wondering is what’s next?"

Escutia has not yet concluded that the pattern she sees is the result of a specific District "practice," she said.  "I don't know if there's lack of administrative oversight.

“I just want an independent investigation from someone, an independent investigation as to what is happening at LAUSD, who knows what, what do they know, when did they know it, who are the victims and what has been done to keep the kids safe.”

Escutia also urged the District to release all documents related to the handling of abuse reports. 

LAUSD attorney David Holmquist said the district has always worked to provide a safe environment for students, and it has conducted extensive reviews of its policies over the past year.

The district updated its system of notifying state teacher-credentialing authorities when allegations arise and placed more specialists in the field to advise schools on misconduct issues.

It changed its policy for notifying parents about abuse allegations and was working with Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Van Nuys, on legislation to allow faster dismissal of teachers accused of abuse.

"Anytime an incident like this occurs, it impacts our entire community,'' Holmquist said. "Every child we serve is important, and we would never willfully place students in harm's way. We are consistently working to strengthen student safety, including implementing numerous policy changes and supporting meaningful statewide legislative reforms like Senator Padilla's teacher dismissal bill.

"We would encourage Senator Escutia and Mr. (John) Manly to work with us to support statewide legislative reforms that will provide a safer learning environment for our students,'' he said.

The news comes as a Wilmington teacher was arrested last week in connection with alleged abuse of children at a school.

Two teachers were arrested in connection with alleged abuses against students at Miramonte Elementary School in Florence and a teacher was arrested at Telfair Elementary School in Pacoima last year.

Escutia and John Manly represent more than 30 children allegedly abused by teachers at Miramonte.

 Escutia said she's concerned that reports of abuse by Latino children and parents are often ignored, and that the undocumented parents of victims are afraid to report abuse out of fear they will be deported. 

Students of Hispanic heritage account  for 73.4 per cent of LAUSD enrollment, according to the District's figures.   

She noted that recent documents disclosed by the Los Angeles Archdiocese of the Catholic Church also evidenced a disproportionate number of sexual crimes committed against Latino children by known predator priests who were moved by the Church into poor Latino communities.

She said that an investigation should focus on whether known abusers were intentionally assigned or moved by LAUSD officials to the poorest and mostly Latino schools.

City News Service contributed to this report.

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