<![CDATA[NBC Southern California - School Abuse Scandal]]>Copyright 2018https://www.nbclosangeles.com/feature/school-abuse-scandalhttp://media.nbcnewyork.com/designimages/NBC4_40x125.pngNBC Southern California https://www.nbclosangeles.comen-usSun, 15 Jul 2018 17:55:00 -0700Sun, 15 Jul 2018 17:55:00 -0700NBC Owned Television Stations<![CDATA[Ex-LAUSD Teacher Gets 12 Years for Child Sex Abuse]]>Fri, 20 Jun 2014 03:59:34 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/214*120/LAUSDRobertPimentelcourt.JPG

A former teacher for the Los Angeles Unified School District was sentenced on Thursday to 12 years in prison for sexual abuse of his students, officials said.

Robert Pimentel, 58, taught fourth grade at George De La Torre Elementary School in Wilmington. He had worked for the Los Angeles County School District since 1974.

Deputy District Attorney Lee Ashley Cernok said Pimentel sexually abused multiple girls, who were between 6 and 10 years old, between 2002 and 2012.

"He is not a molestor of children, he is not a pedophile," Pimentel's sister, Lily Pimtentel-Stratton, told NBC4 on Thursday. "He wanted to end it all. He did not plead guilty, he is not guilty on any of these counts."

Pimtentel pleaded no contest on May 29 to four felony counts involving four victims, including one count of continuous sexual abuse and three counts of lewd acts on a child. He was ordered to register as a sex offender for life and to stay away from the victims for 10 years.

"He believed it was in his best interest to accept the offer made in light of the risks of going to trial, such as this, and we agreed with him," said Leonard Levine, Pimentel's attorney. "He has consistently denied the truths to these allegations."

Pimentel was removed from the classroom in 2012 when an investigation began after a student told her mother that he inappropriately touched her.

In April 2012, he retired from the LAUSD but was then arrested on the same molestation charges in January 2013.

Victims spoke at the sentencing and expressed hatred for their former teacher.

"Mr. Pimentel, you are evil, and there is a special place in hell for people like you," one victim's parent said.

"You hurt me so much it affected my whole world," a victim said.

The victims' attorney cited this case as part of a larger epidemic within the LAUSD.

"It needs to stop," the victims' attorney John Manly said. "The secrets need to go away and LAUSD needs to come the 21st Century and stop hiding this and admit they have a problem."

The LAUSD issued a statement after his sentencing: 

"Today’s sentencing closes this chapter for the children and families involved. We know how painful trials can be, and appreciate the district attorney and courts expedient handling of the criminal matter. We hope that plaintiffs’ counsel will make the same commitment to work with us through the remaining civil matters.

"We have and will continue to aggressively fight to remove teachers committing misconduct. Not only will we continue efforts to ensure they are not around students in our school district, but we are committed to swiftly ending their employment and fighting to have their credentials revoked.

"Every day our teachers, staff and leadership work hard to protect the students who we serve. We have consistently taken steps to enhance our student safety efforts. Chief among these efforts were creating an electronic system for tracking reports of child abuse; a mandatory 72 hour notification policy; establishing a specialized investigation team to review misconduct allegations; providing additional trainings for parents and staff to identify potential abuse; and actively participating in a comprehensive audit by the state auditor of our reporting and investigative policies, which found them to be strong."



Photo Credit: John Cádiz Klemack]]>
<![CDATA[Ex-Teacher to Stand Trial in Student Sex Case]]>Tue, 04 Mar 2014 17:13:12 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/216*120/summer+hansen+march+4+2014+court.JPG

A former special education teacher accused of having sex with five underage boys was ordered Tuesday to stand trial in the case, according to the Riverside County District Attorney.

Summer Michelle Hansen, 31, was charged in August 2013 with 16 felony counts including unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor, unlawful oral copulation with a minor and sending harmful matter to a minor, according to the DA’s office. If convicted as charged, she faces up to 13 years in state prison.

Last September, Hansen pleaded not guilty, and her husband proclaimed her innocence exclusively to NBC4.

Prosecutors said Hansen engaged in sexual intercourse and oral sex with the boys in her classroom, in a utility room at the school, in car while parked near a boy’s home and at another alleged victim’s home.

One accuser claims that Hansen offered him sex as a "prize" for playing well in a baseball game.

None of the alleged victims were Hansen’s students, but all did attend the school where she taught and were under the age of 18 when the alleged crimes occurred, the DA said.

Hansen taught special education at Centennial High School in Corona. She is on unpaid leave and her teaching credentials have been suspended, according to the Corona-Norco Unified School District.

The former educator appeared in court Tuesday and waived her right to a preliminary hearing. She is scheduled to appear in court again on March 25 for an information arraignment and her trial could begin as soon as late June.

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<![CDATA[8th Grade Teacher Faces Molest Charges]]>Sun, 23 Feb 2014 01:08:27 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/189*120/01fullertonteacher.jpg

In the wake of the arrest of a Fullerton junior high school teacher in a student molestation case, school officials are planning a community meeting Monday to discuss concerns.

A parent meeting has been scheduled at 6 p.m. Monday at Nicolas Junior High School.

The meeting is being held following the Friday arrest of Melissa Lindgren, 28, of La Mirada, in connection with sexually molesting at least one male student, authorities said.

Police were also investigating whether she molested a second male student, officials said.

She was booked at the Fullerton Police Department Jail and was released after posting $10,000 bail, Fullerton police Sgt. Jeff Stuart said.

The case came to light after two students reported the suspect to school officials.

When they learned of the case, school officials immediately notified Fullerton police and placed the suspect on administrative leave, officials said.

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<![CDATA[Teacher Accused of Sexual Assault Against Minor]]>Sat, 22 Feb 2014 00:44:57 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/gomez+lausd.jpg

A drama and history teacher is accused of sexually assaulting a minor while he was an educator at a Southern California high school, authorities said.

Peter Christopher Gomez, 47, was taken into custody Friday afternoon and his bail has been set for $950,000, according to the Los Angeles Police Department.

The alleged sexual assaults happened in 1999 when Gomez was a teacher at Benjamin Franklin High School in Highland Park (map), LAPD said.

Gomez started his career with the Los Angeles Unified School District at Franklin High School in 1996, the district said. His most recent job was at Bell Senior High School, where he taught history and drama since 2005, the district said.

In a statement, Superintendent John Deasy said LAUSD is cooperating with LAPD.

“The teacher will not be allowed near students prior to the conclusion of the investigation, and the resolution of charges,” Deasy said.

Parents and guardians were notified Friday about the arrest, the district said.

Detectives are asking for the public's help in locating other students who may have been victimized. Anyone with information is urged to call detectives Lina Teague or Michelle Gomez at 323-344-5742.



Photo Credit: Los Angeles Police Department]]>
<![CDATA[Ongoing Coverage: MIramonte Abuse Scandal]]>Wed, 29 Feb 2012 11:45:28 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/miramonte-school-front.jpg
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<![CDATA[LAUSD Official Stands by Teacher Abuse Settlements]]>Wed, 30 Apr 2014 09:10:32 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/miramonte112912.jpg

LA Unified’s General Counsel David Holmquist says he believes every one of the 63 settlements to date in the Miramonte sex abuse scandal was “absolutely the right decision.”

Speaking one-on-one with NBC4’s John Cadiz Klemack, Holmquist, who has been in his post with the district since 2009, said he felt it respected the needs of the students and “the fiscal responsibility we have to not spend any more than we need to.”

The settlements were announced Feb. 14, 2013. Since then, there has been at least one more attempt to settle additional cases to no avail. The first round of trials is expected to begin in April.

“We can say absolutely that these are proper and appropriate settlements under the circumstances,” Holmquist said.

But NBC4 has learned through a source that some of the settlements may not have been necessary under the California Education Code.

NBC4 has reached out to each member of the LAUSD School Board and their staff for comment but thus far have received no comment. We want to find out if the board members have investigated the allegations the district may have overpaid “inexperienced” lawyers for what is the biggest sex abuse case it has ever faced.

Homquist said the hiring decision was his alone to make.

“I did tell them who was representing us but that’s not a decision they make, that’s delegated to me. If they’re not happy with that decision then they need to take that out on me,” he said.

Holmquist has repeatedly said the two main law firms handling the Miramonte cases – Thomas Delaney of the Sedgwick Law Firm and Sean Andrade of Andrade and Gonzalez (formerly of the Baute Law Firm) – have the capacity and experience to handle the 100-plus cases. But in speaking with NBC4, Holmquist could not give any specific examples of experience in child abuse cases.

“I cannot,” Homquist said, “but I don't think that's relevant to the selection of him.”

Holmquist refers to Andrade as being hired to handle any insurance issues stemming from Miramonte.

The first four of the 60 remaining civil cases against the district go to trial in April. NBC4 Legal Analyst Royal Oakes said if allegations of inexperience in child abuse cases are true, the forthcoming trials could be a tough battle.

“If in fact the district hired lawyers that didn't have the specific qualifications or charged more than they should every single hour,” Oakes said. “That's the basis for taxpayers to be very angry with what the school district did."

NBC4 has filed a public records request for more information from the district as to the hiring of the law firms involved but has yet to receive any additional details. By law the school board has 10 days to respond, that deadline is Feb. 18.

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<![CDATA[Teen Who Had Baby With Teacher Sues School District]]>Fri, 07 Feb 2014 07:34:55 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/whitehurstBLUE.jpg

A teenager who fathered a baby with his high school teacher has filed suit against a Southern California school district and also puts blame on the teacher’s parents, who are helping her raise the child.

"Children in Redlands should not be a sex toy for their teacher,” said John Manly, one of the former student’s attorneys who filed the lawsuit against the Redlands Unified School District.

When he was 16 years old and a student at Citrus Valley High School, the plaintiff fathered a child with his then-teacher Laura Whitehurst, according to the 40-page lawsuit.

The plaintiff is now 18 and in college. His attorney said the former teacher told the plaintiff she was unable to get pregnant.

Whitehurst pleaded guilty to having sex with three of her students and was sentenced to a year in county jail. She was released last month after serving about six months.

Whitehurst and her parents, who are also educators, are now taking care of the child. The civil lawsuit accuses the parents of knowing the child’s father was a minor but failing to report it.

“It’s inconceivable that they had no idea who that was,” attorney Vince Finaldi said.

The lawsuit also targets the Redlands Unified School District, accusing school administrators of creating an environment in which teacher-student sex allegations were ignored, specifically by a fellow teacher who they claim knew Whitehurst was having sex with a student but did nothing.

Superintendent of the Redlands Unified School District Lori Rhodes released a statement saying the allegations in the lawsuit are false:

"The allegations in the John BB Doe lawsuit as they relate to the Redlands Unified School District and its current employees are simply untrue. Furthermore, it is shocking that the plaintiff's attorneys have gone beyond suing the district itself and included a teacher who had no role in the events whatsoever."

The attorneys in this case recently settled another lawsuit against the school district in regard to coach Megan Kelly, who was investigated for allegedly having sex with a student. Charges were never filed but the school district agreed to pay the alleged victim $500,000.

The attorneys are not saying how much money they are seeking with the latest lawsuit.

They want Whitehurst to undergo a psychological review. If it is deemed that it is in the best interest of the child for the now-18-year-old father to have full custody, then “that’s what we would request,” an attorney said.

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<![CDATA[Jail Time for School Aide Who Had Baby With Student]]>Tue, 28 Jan 2014 09:30:43 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/mandymoralesblue.jpg

A former teacher’s aide at a special needs school in San Dimas was sentenced to jail time Monday after pleading guilty to having sex and a baby with a teenage student, according to court officials.

Mandy Morales, who worked at Canyon View School, was given a year in jail and three years’ probation, and ordered to attend sex offender counseling and parenting classes, a clerk at the Pomona Courthouse told NBC4.

Photog Sought for Allegedly Molesting Girls Inside Hummer

A felony complaint for an arrest warrant had accused Morales, now 31, of unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor under age 16 between Oct. 1, 2011, and July 5, 2012.

Authorities became aware of the relationship in December 2012 but waited to take legal action until DNA tests confirmed the baby girl's father, Sgt. Peter Hahn of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department told NBC4 when Morales was arrested last summer.

Top Calif. Court: Disgraced Journalist Can't Practice Law

Canyon View School -- a private K-12 school in San Dimas, about 30 miles east of LA -- provides education to students aged 6 to 22 with special needs, according to its website.

Morales had been a bus driver and aide at the school since 2004, Hahn said.



Photo Credit: Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department]]>
<![CDATA[Coach Held on Suspicion of Lewd Acts With Teen]]>Mon, 16 Dec 2013 23:39:53 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/school-generic.jpg

A 23-year-old high school coach is on unpaid leave after his arrest for alleged lewd acts with two 15-year-old girls, police and school officials said Monday.

Jonathan Adam Roldan was a girls' junior varsity volleyball coach and campus aide at Esteban Torres High School in East Los Angeles. He was arrested Dec. 13 on suspicion of having sex with a 15-year-old female student and for allegedly touching a second 15-year-old female student inappropriately, according to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.

The first alleged victim reported what happened to her school the day Roldan was arrested, authorities said. The school alerted the Sheriff’s Department.

Parents and guardians with students at the school were notified over the weekend of Roldan’s arrest, the Los Angeles Unified School District said in a statement. A letter about the arrest went home with students Monday.

“The Los Angeles Unified School District will place him on unpaid compulsory leave when he’s formally charged, pending resolution of the criminal matter," the district said in the statement. "If convicted, he will be dismissed. Superintendent John Deasy is recommending moving ahead with the dismissal process at the earliest opportunity."

Roldan is being held in jail on $1 million bail. He is scheduled to appear in court on Tuesday.

Investigators believe they may be other possible victims or witnesses, and are urging anyone with information to call Sgt. Richard Ruiz at 877-710-5273 or emailing SpecialVictims@lasd.org

Anonymous tips can be reported to Crime Stoppers by calling 800-222-TIPS (8477), texting the letters TIPLA plus your tip to CRIMES (274637), or using the website http://lacrimestoppers.org

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<![CDATA[Ex-Teacher Arrested for Alleged Molestation]]>Fri, 11 Oct 2013 08:27:37 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/teacher+mug.jpg

A former Southern California teacher accused of molesting children was arrested Thursday, two months after he resigned, police said.

Sean Edwards, 49, of Eastvale, turned himself in last month to the Jurupa Valley Sheriff’s Station, which began an investigation in allegations that Edwards molested a student at Granite Hill Elementary School during the 2013 school year.

A Riverside County Sheriff’s Department watch commander Thursday night told NBC4 he was not sure why Edwards turned himself in last month.

During that investigation, detectives determined that Edwards may have molested other students over the course of several years, the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department said in a news release Thursday.

Edwards was arrested Thursday for a felony child molestation warrant. His bail is set at $110,000.

Anyone with information pertaining to the case is urged to contact Investigator Devine of the Jurupa Valley Station at 951-955-2600.

More Southern California Stories:



Photo Credit: Riverside County Sheriff's Department]]>
<![CDATA[Lawsuit Claims Teacher Abused Up to 15 Children]]>Fri, 20 Sep 2013 00:55:47 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/220*120/el-sereno-sign-school.jpg

A former Los Angeles Unified School District teacher accused of molesting students is denying the allegations laid out in a new lawsuit against the school district.

"I would love to say things. All I can tell you is those allegations are not true," Armando Gonzalez told NBC4's John Cádiz Klemack in an exclusive interview on Thursday.

A lawsuit filed against the LAUSD on Wednesday alleges the former El Sereno Elementary School teacher may have sexually abused as many as 15 children.

Sex Abuse Lawsuit: Sept. 19, 2013 LAUSD Statement on Teacher Dismissal

Three former students said their teacher inappropriately touched them and kissed one of the girls on the lips between 2008 and 2010. The lawsuit also claims another student reported abuse in 2007 by the same teacher, but was ignored by the district.

"My belief is one of the kids came forward in 2007, but was ignored," said Carrillo, who also represents families involved in the Miramonte Elementary School sexual abuse lawsuits. "Then, he continued to do his abuse, which is the same pattern as Miramonte."

There might be as many as 15 victims, a number that attorney Luis Carrillo told the Los Angeles Times was based on information provided by the school district to parents. The families contacted his office when the girls were asked to testify at an LAUSD administrative hearing, according to Carrillo.

The three girls ranged in age from 8 to 10 years old at the time of the abuse.

The district was in the process of firing Gonzalez last year, but he officially resigned last week after first protesting the firing, an LAUSD spokesperson said. Gonzalez has not been at the school since mid-2010, according to El Sereno Elementary School Principal Cheryl Morelan.

"In 2012, we began dismissal proceedings against this teacher for alleged misconduct," the district's attorney said in a statement. "Unfortunately, we are required by law to go through a set of potentially lengthy proceedings to make the dismissal final."

LAUSD officials became aware of the allegations in 2010 and removed Gonzalez from the classroom, according to the statement. The Los Angeles Police Department confirmed that Gonzalez was arrested in 2010.

"As soon as we were made aware of the allegations of misconduct against Armando Gonzalez in March 2010, we immediately reported it to law enforcement," the statement issued Thursday morning continued. "Gonzalez has not been in the classroom since. We remained steadfast throughout that process to not settle with this teacher."

The statement went on to criticize state officials for creating a "cumbersome and costly" teacher dismissal process. Gonzalez resigned during the dismissal proceedings on Sept. 11, 2013.

A bill designed to streamline the process was forwarded to California Gov. Jerry Brown earlier this month. The original bill died in committee in July, but a resurrected version passed the Legislature.

The LAUSD statement issued Thursday said the bill does "not provide adquate protection for our students."

The claims come one month after a judge ruled that LAUSD must pay millions in 61 settlements to families involved in a sexual abuse scandal at Miramonte Elementary School. The district paid $27 million in those cases, but other claims involving Miramonte Elementary School families remain unresolved.

More Southern California Stories:

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<![CDATA[Teacher Pleads in Sex Case]]>Thu, 12 Sep 2013 21:22:25 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/summerhansen.jpg

A Southern California high school teacher pleaded not guilty on Thursday to charges that she had sex with five students.

Summer Michelle Hansen, a 31-year-old special education teacher at Centennial High School in Corona, was charged Aug. 14 with 16 felony counts stemming from accusations that she had sex with five students and sent the boys sexual text messages and nude photographs of herself.

Hansen appeared different as she walked into the courtroom - her hair was no longer blond, it was dark brown. Her attorney said she wanted a new look.

Prosecutors said Hansen engaged in sexual intercourse and oral sex with the boys on campus and at one victim's home as far back as May 2012.

One accuser claims that Hansen offered him sex as a "prize" for playing well in a baseball game.

All five boys were students at Centennial High, but none were Hansen's students, according to Riverside County district attorney spokesman John Hall.

Hansen's attorney, David R. Cohn, called the case a "witch hunt" and said Hansen's phone was hacked. Cohn also implied that her accusers may be involved in a conspiracy against her.

"These boys all know each other, if they didn't know each other and had no connection with each other, then you start to wonder," Cohn said.

Prosecutors said the evidence against Hansen is strong, including nude photos of herself that she allegedly sent to the boys in text messages.

"We're not going to charge somebody unless we believe that we have the evidence to prove that they are guilty of those charges," Hall said.

Parents of Hansen's students have come to her defense.

 "The truth will come out some way, somehow," Hansen's husband exclusively told NBC4 News. "Our faith is getting us through it,"

After the allegations surfaced, the school district placed Hansen on administrative leave. Police launched an investigation that led to Hansen's arrest on June 20. She posted a $150,000 bond the next day.

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<![CDATA[Educator Provides Glimpse Inside "Teacher Jail"]]>Sun, 08 Sep 2013 00:22:09 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/lausdjailthumb.jpg

At its best, assignment to "teacher jail" is mind-numbingly boring.

"You're sent basically to do nothing," said Michael Griffin, who taught 12 years at Crenshaw High before he was removed last October.

"They put us on a list and sent us there to sit and rot," Griffin said, making no effort to hide his bitterness.

Griffin said he would be the first to demand the removal of any teacher who abuses students. But he sees accountability flaws in a system that sets no time limit on how long a teacher can be left in limbo before the district makes a decision to seek dismissal.

More: LAUSD Hiring Pro Investigators for Abuse Cases

Some teachers he met have waited years before their cases were resolved.

In his case, Griffin said he was notified by the principal that the school had received a call from a woman. She identified herself as a 27-year-old who had been in a relationship with Griffin 11 years earlier, when she was underage.

Griffin said he does not know who the woman is because it never happened. School district officials say privacy guarantees preclude them from discussing personnel matters.

NBC4 could not obtain any district comment on Griffin's situation.

Griffin recognizes there is greater public awareness and caution since the Miramonte allegations alarmed parents across Southern California.

Mark Berndt awaits trial on charges of abusing 23 elementary school students while he was teaching there.

"After the Miramonte situation, the principals are afraid," Griffin said. "So any allegation, they're sending the teacher to teacher jail. It's shotgun justice."

Every school day, Griffin reports to a room on the 11th floor of the school district's downtown headquarters on South Beaudry Avenue.

"You're supposed to be creating lesson plans. All mine are in order," he said.

Griffin is among those who contend the district's discipline system is vulnerable to abuse, offering an unscrupulous administrator the opportunity to get rid of a disliked teacher for an extended period of time based on nothing more than a vague suspicion.

"Just sitting there for days, weeks, months, if not years is unacceptable," said Board of Education member Tamar Galatzan. "We need to have a better, stronger process to resolve these."

LAUSD is now implementing Galatzan's April resolution calling for the hiring of a dedicated investigation team staffed by professionals with backgrounds in law enforcement and children's protective services.

Griffin suspects his re-assignment stems from a year of turmoil at Crenshaw. The high school has been transformed into three separate magnet programs. Fully half the faculty was not invited to return.

A dozen such teachers have filed grievances alleging unfair labor practices.

Griffin decided to pursue education as a career after serving in the US Marine Corps. He's raised two children. A daughter in her early 20s still lives at home. He relieves stress by riding motorcycles.

Griffin still wants to return to teaching. Not knowing when the district will act, he plans to return to graduate school to get a doctorate.

"I had a reputation in my community. There's no way to get that back, even with reinstatement," he said.

So why did he agree to speak out?

"It's too important not to say something. Because it's wrong."

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<![CDATA[LAUSD Hiring Pro Investigators for Abuse Cases]]>Fri, 06 Sep 2013 23:32:30 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/classroom5.jpg

Teachers suspected of abusing children will be investigated by a new generation of school staff with backgrounds in law enforcement and child protective services, according to the Los Angeles Unified School District.

"We're in the process of hiring right now," said Tamar Galatzan, the School Board member who last April got board approval for a series of measures to improve the district's ability to investigate allegations of employee sexual misconduct.

The District hopes to have the new investigative team in place by the end of December, according to a response memo from Michelle King, senior deputy superintendent for school operations.

More: Educator Gives Glimpse Inside "Teacher Jail"

The number of cases under investigation has increased significantly in the past two years. The uptick began after John Deasy became superintendent and brought a new emphasis on teacher discipline.

Then in early 2012, the charging of former Miramonte teacher Mark Berndt with abusing 23 children unleashed a flood of suspicions against other educators across the Southland.

Traditionally, the district has relied in most cases on principals to lead the investigations of suspect teachers at their schools.

"When they got to the investigations, the principals were overloaded and not trained for these sensitive investigations," Galatzan said.

The district is also in the process of setting up a computerized "data warehouse" to centralize and "consolidate misconduct, discipline, and investigation data," according to King's Aug. 29 memo.

In recent years, the increase in the number of teachers removed from classrooms has outstripped the district's ability to keep up with the investigations. When a teacher falls under suspicion of serious misconduct, district policy calls for the teacher to be removed immediately, and kept away from students.

Such teachers are typically assigned to report to district offices and during school hours to remain in offices known as "teacher jails." The district refers to those suspect teachers as being "housed."

During 2010-11, the average number of housed teachers was 144. The following year, that number increased to 248, then grew again last school year to 289, according to statistics provided by the LAUSD General Counsel's office.

The teacher jail population hit a peak of 320 last April.

In some cases, suspect but uncharged teachers remain housed for extended periods of time before the district makes a decision to proceed with dismissal or return them to the classroom.

"You're sent basically to do nothing," said Michael Griffin, a teacher removed from Crenshaw High School last October, and told to report each school day to a room on the 11th floor of the school District's downtown headquarters.

"It's too important not to say anything. Because it's wrong," Griffin said.

"The district has developed a system of indefinite detention," said Warren Fletcher, president of United Teachers Los Angeles. "It's a system that gums up the works."

While assigned to teacher jail, the suspect teachers remain on the district's payroll.

"Just sitting there, for days, weeks, months, if not years, is unacceptable," said Galatazan, an attorney who works as a prosecutor for the Los Angeles City Attorney. "We need to have a better, stronger system to resolve these."

Fletcher expressed hope that in cases where suspicions prove unfounded, district reforms will speed the return of those teachers to their classrooms. But he said the district needs to be more transparent and noted the district had not provided him a copy of King's response memo.

Fletcher also said the expert investigators the district is bringing in need to be "independent."

Many assigned to teacher jail contend some principals abuse the system to punish or get rid of teachers they don't like.

Galatzan acknowledged she has heard anecdotal evidence of such cases.

She observed that the current system offers a perverse incentive for a principal with such a motive not to expedite an investigation that would lead to the teacher's return.

When the new school year began last month, the count in the various teacher jails across the LA district had dropped from its spring high to 265. Galatzan sees that as a step in the right direction, and hopes the phase in of reforms can continue to reduce the number.

But she emphasized the district must keep the ability to remove teachers from the classroom when suspicion of serious misconduct is raised.

That means the district will continue to need places to re-assign them during the time it takes to vet the suspicion.

Professional investigation will also enable the district to make better decisions on cases, Galatzan said, and when dismissals are appealed, be better prepared to defend them.

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<![CDATA[Ex-Teacher Who Had Teen's Baby Sentenced]]>Wed, 28 Aug 2013 10:50:10 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/whitehurstbookingblue070813.jpg

A second Southern California teacher who admitted to having sex with her students has been sentenced to jail time this week.

Laura Elizabeth Whitehurst pleaded guilty earlier this month to having sexual relations with three students, included one her attorney said was the father of her baby.

The 28-year-old former teacher at Redlands High School was formally sentenced Wednesday to one year in county jail and five years’ probation, as well as lifetime registration as a sex offender and sex offender counseling.

Also this week, a former vice principal at Tahquitz High School in Hemet pleaded guilty to having sex with three teenage students. Erin Renee Henton, 45, was sentenced to a year in jail and three years’ probation Monday.

Henton, whose male victims were all under 18, will have to register as a sex offender for the duration of her three-year probation, according to the Riverside County District Attorney’s Office.

Whitehurst pleaded guilty to four counts of unlawful sex with a minor and two counts of oral copulation with a minor. The remaining 35 charges against her were dismissed during a hearing at San Bernardino Superior Court Aug 1.

The father of Whitehurst’s baby was a 16-year-old student at Citrus Valley High School at the time the affair began between the pair, police said. The boy attended the birth of the baby girl on June 18, according to court documents.

The teen father's family on Wednesday opposed the year sentence imposed on Whitehurst, saying in a statement they think the former educator should have received more time behind bars.

The teen and Whitehurst both admitted the affair to police during interviews, according to a detective's affidavit.

Officials with the Redlands Unified School District had interviewed Whitehurst and her victim about their relationship in May, but police were not contacted until the boy's mother made a complaint, according to the affidavit.

After police publicized her July 1 arrest, saying they believed a 17-year-old student was the father of her weeks-old baby, two other ex-students came forward with allegations of past sexual relationships with her.

One victim was a 14-year-old student at the time the relationship began, and he had sex with Whitehurst in her English classroom, according to police.

Another victim spoke to news media about his experience with Whitehurst in 2007-2008.

"I didn't feel like a victim; I'm not scarred for life or anything," Michael Cooper told NBC4 at the time. "To be honest, I had a good time when it was going on."

Whitehurst was charged with sexual relations with all three boys, two of whom were students of hers at Redlands High School.

The sexual intercourse charges to which she pleaded guilty Wednesday were for the father of her baby; the two oral copulation charges were for each of the other victims.

If convicted of all original charges, Whitehurst would have faced up to 29 years in state prison, the San Bernardino County District's Attorney's Office had said.

Melissa Pamer contributed to this report.

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<![CDATA[Arrest in Ex-Teacher Sex Case]]>Thu, 22 Aug 2013 07:33:16 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/JasonStubbsMugCrop.jpg

After the arrest of an Inland Empire substitute teacher who allegedly had sex with a minor, police were asking for the public's help in finding additional victims.

Jason Stubbs, a 26-year-old Eastvale resident, was arrested on Wednesday after police learned a few days earlier that he allegedly had sexual contact with a minor female, according to a release by the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department.

The man worked as a substitute teacher for the Fontana School District in San Bernardino County, and previously the Jurupa Valley School District in Riverside County, the release stated.

Stubbs used social media to communicate with and meet minors, investigators said, and they believe he may have additional victims.

Eastvale police responded to a school in the Fontana School District when they located Stubbs, the release stated, but did not specify which school.

He is charged with three felony sex crimes involving a minor, including sodomy with a person under age 14 with force and sex penetration by force.

Stubbs posted $55,000 bail and was released from the Robert Presley Detention Center on Thursday, and he is expected in court on Oct. 16.

Anyone with information should call Joel Pabelico at the Eastvale Police Department's Jurupa Valley Station at 951-955-2600. Citizens may also submit an anonymous tip using the Sheriff's CrimeTips online form.

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<![CDATA[Ex-Redlands Teacher Pleads in Sex Case]]>Thu, 01 Aug 2013 10:00:56 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/whitehurstincourt731.jpg

A former Redlands high school teacher admitted to having sexual relations with three students – including one her attorney said was the father of her baby – when she pleaded guilty to six sex charges in court Wednesday.

Laura Elizabeth Whitehurst, 28, had been charged with 41 counts of sex and oral copulation with a minor in crimes that took place in the mountain foothill city of Redlands, about 60 miles east of Los Angeles. Whitehurst was being held on $500,000 bail.

She pleaded guilty to four counts of unlawful sex with a minor and two counts of oral copulation with a minor. The remaining charges were dismissed during a hearing at San Bernardino Superior Court Wednesday morning.

She agreed to one year in jail, five years of probation, lifetime registration as a sex offender and sex offender counseling. She will be formally sentenced Aug. 28.

"The victims in this case would like to move forward, and this is a way for them to do that," Deputy District Attorney Melissa Rodriguez told reporters, saying both sides had wanted to avoid a drawn-out trial.

Whitehurst's attorney, James Gass, told news media outside the courtroom that Whitehurst wanted to retain custody of her baby girl, whom he confirmed had been fathered by a victim identified in court papers as John Doe. Gass said the victim will turn 18 within two weeks.

He added that the baby is being cared for by Whitehurst's parents.

MORE 4 YOU: Free mobile news, weather apps | LAUSD's Miramonte Abuse Scandal

Gass said Whitehurst was "somewhat emotionally traumatized" by the investigation and legal proceedings.

"She made some big mistakes. There are serious consequences, and she will pay them," he said.

After police publicized her July 1 arrest, saying they believed a 17-year-old student was the father of her weeks-old baby, two other ex-students came forward with allegations of past sexual relationships with her.

One victim was a 14-year-old student at the time the relationship began, and he had sex with Whitehurst in her English classroom, according to police.

Another victim spoke to news media about his experience with Whitehurst in 2007-2008.

"I didn't feel like a victim; I'm not scarred for life or anything," Michael Cooper told NBC4 earlier this month. "To be honest, I had a good time when it was going on."

Whitehurst was charged with sexual relations with all three boys, two of whom were students of hers at Redlands High School.

The sexual intercourse charges to which she pleaded guilty Wednesday were for the father of her baby; the two oral copulation charges were for each of the other victims.

The father of Whitehurst’s baby was a 16-year-old student at Citrus Valley High School at the time the affair began between the pair, police said. The boy attended the birth of the baby girl on June 18, according to court documents.

He and Whitehurst both admitted the affair to police during interviews, according to a detective's affidavit.

Officials with the Redlands Unified School District had interviewed Whitehurst and her victim about their relationship in May, but police were not contacted until the boy's mother made a complaint, according to the affidavit.

At an arraignment hearing July 9 when Whitehurst pleaded not guilty, her defense attorney told reporters she was a "clean-cut American girl."

If convicted of all original charges, Whitehurst would have faced up to 29 years in state prison, the San Bernardino County District's Attorney's Office had said.

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Photo Credit: Jacob Rascon]]>
<![CDATA[Teacher's Aide Faces Sex Crime Charges]]>Fri, 12 Jul 2013 10:59:31 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/mandymoralesblue.jpg

A teacher’s aide at a special needs school in San Dimas was arrested this week and is accused of having a relationship with a teen student who is allegedly the father of the woman’s baby.

Mandy Morales, 30, an aide at independent Canyon View School, was arrested Wednesday for unlawful sexual intercourse.

The Sheriff's Department said Thursday that Morales was due in court that day, but later said she was set to be arraigned Sept. 11.

A felony complaint for an arrest warrant, filed in court July 3 and signed by a judge on Tuesday, alleged Morales had unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor under age 16 between Oct. 1, 2011 and July 5, 2012.

"He think he loves her, and she thinks she loves him," said Sgt. Peter Hahn of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department.

Authorities became aware of the relationship in December but waited to take legal action until DNA tests confirmed the baby girl's father, Hahn said.

Canyon View School -- a private K-12 school in San Dimas, about 30 miles east of LA -- provides education to students aged 6 to 22 with special needs, according to its website.

Morales has been a bus driver and aide at the school since 2004, Hahn said.

On Thursday, a school official said Canyon View School -- part of McKinley Children's Center, pictured below -- would have no comment except to say the campus is cooperating with law enforcement.

Later, Chief Executive Officer Al Mason issued a statement, according to City News Service.

"Ms. Morales is no longer an employee of Canyon View School,'' Mason wrote. "The protection, privacy care, and safety of the children we serve is our highest priority, and we shall continue our cooperation with law enforcement authorities.''

An NBC4 reporter on campus was told the school was private property and he should step off the grass.

A teacher at the school found a journal belonging to Morales that detailed an ongoing sexual relationship with the student, Hahn said. Morales gave birth to the student’s baby when the teen was 17, Hahn said.

The child is just over a year old, Hahn said.

"It's my understanding that he does have contact with the child, so he does still have contact with the woman," Hahn told NBC4.

Morales was arrested about 5:30 Wednesday evening and held at the Sheriff's Department's San Dimas Station, online inmate records show. She was released on $50,000 bail at 11:30 p.m. Wednesday.

The story is similar to another in Redlands, where 28-year-old Laura Whitehurst, a teacher at Citrus Valley High School, is accused of giving birth to a baby fathered by a teen student. Whitehurst pleaded not guilty this week with 41 sex crimes allegedly committed with three teen students.

Hahn said it's possible detectives will find additional victims of Morales.

NOTE: The Sheriff's Department gave Morales' age as 31, but inmate records show a birth date that would make Morales 30.

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Photo Credit: Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department]]>
<![CDATA[Teacher Pleads Not Guilty to Sex Counts]]>Tue, 09 Jul 2013 23:19:07 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/whitehurstbookingblue070813.jpg

A Redlands high school teacher accused of having a baby allegedly fathered by a teen student pleaded not guilty Tuesday to 41 counts of sex and oral copulation with a minor.

Laura Elizabeth Whitehurst, 28, was arrested July 1 after the mother of a Citrus Valley High student contacted school officials about the suspected relationship between her son and the English teacher.

She was charged Monday with crimes alleged to have involved the boy -- who was 16 when the relationship began, according to police -- and two other teen students who are now adults. Her arraignment by video was set for San Bernardino Superior Court at 12:45 p.m. Tuesday, according to a tweet from the San Bernardino County District Attorney's Office.

A judge denied the use of cameras in the courtroom.

"She's a clean-cut American girl sitting in jail, so she's having a hard time," her defense attorney, James Gass, told reporters outside the courtroom. "But she'll be OK."

Authorities said Whitehurst had given birth June 18 to a baby fathered by the student with whom she had had a nearly year-long affair. The boy attended the baby’s birth, according to court documents.

Deputy District Attorney Melissa Rodriguez said there was no contact between the boy and Whitehurst since her arrest. Rodriguez is seeking a protective order for the teen.

After the boy's mother contact school officials, Whitehurst and the boy confirmed details of the relationship to a Redlands police detective, according to an affidavit. Authorities made the accusations public.

Then, at least two other men came forward and said they had had sexual relations with Whitehurst in 2007 and 2008.

One of the alleged victims spoke to NBC4 Southern California, saying he never felt victimized but wanted to share his story so that others might come forward to tell police about their experiences with Whitehurst.

Officials with the Redlands Unified School District had interviewed Whitehurst and her alleged victim about their relationship in May, but police were not contacted until the boy's mother made a complaint, according to a police detective's affidavit.

On Monday, the school district issued a news release in response to the charges that stated students may receive professional counseling over the summer by calling the district office.

"Even though today’s developments were not unexpected, they nevertheless mark a sad day for our school district," the district's statement read. "Our faculty and staff are made up of caring professionals who have chosen careers as educators because they want what is best for young people. Anything that harms a student harms us all."

The charges filed by the District Attorney’s Office Monday against the teacher reflect alleged relationships with the three teen students. Whitehurst is charged with 30 counts of unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor, and 11 counts of oral copulation of a person under 18.

If convicted as charged, Whitehurst could face up to 29 years in state prison, the District's Attorney's Office said.

Whitehurst was released July 1 after posting $25,000 bail. She was again arrested Monday without incident, the District's Attorney's Office said.

She is now being held on $750,000 bail.

The District Attorney’s Office is still seeking to identify potential additional victims of Whitehurst. Anyone with information should contact Redlands police Detective Natasha Crawford at (909) 798-7623 or the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office at (909) 382-3660.

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<![CDATA[School Waited to Report Abuse by Teacher]]>Sat, 06 Jul 2013 11:52:26 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/whitehurstBLUE.jpg

A school district investigation into a relationship between a Redlands teacher and a student with whom she’s now accused of having a sexual relationship – and a baby – did not result in a report to police or child protective services, according to court documents filed Friday.

In May, the Redlands Unified School District questioned Laura Elizabeth Whitehurst – a Citrus Valley High School teacher who was arrested Monday on suspicion of unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor – as well as her alleged victim.

Whitehurst was at the time more than seven months pregnant, and police on Monday said the father was a teen student with whom she had an ongoing sexual relationship.

An affidavit submitted Wednesday to a San Bernardino County judge by Redlands police Detective Dominick Povero describes Whitehurst’s alleged relationship with the teen, as well the school district’s investigation into the pair on May 16 and May 17.

Povero was seeking a search warrant for school records related to the investigation, and San Bernardino Superior Court Judge Richard Peel on Wednesday granted him access to personnel files for Whitehurst, as well as her work emails and any relevant property on the Citrus Valley High campus. The document was filed in public court records Friday.

“Evidence from email communication and personnel files may show teachers, school administrators, and district administrators failed to report suspected child abuse as mandated,” Povero wrote.

Whitehurst, 28, pictured in her booking photo below, was released from police custody Monday night on $25,000 bail. Police said she had given birth on June 18.

On Wednesday, police said investigators had learned of two other alleged victims since Whitehurst’s arrest was made public.

One alleged victim was a freshman at the time of a sexual relationship in 2007 and 2008, which occurred at the same time as a similar relationship with a boy, now 23, who spoke to NBC4 about his experience with Whitehurst.

"There wasn't a thought of, 'I'm going to get in trouble' or 'Should I say something?'" Michael Cooper told NBC4 of a relationship he described during his junior year at Redands High School, where Whitehurst was his English teacher. "It's more of like, 'Holy cow, this hot teacher is into me.'"

The affidavit from Povero provides details of the police investigation into Whitehurst and the teen -- and into the school district questioning of the pair that took place more than six weeks before the teacher's arrest.

The court filing states that Redlands Unified Assistant Superintendent Sabine Robertson-Phillips had spoken to Whitehurst about her relationship to the  victim, described as “John Doe.” Citrus Valley High Principal Bernard Cavanagh spoke to “John Doe,” according to Povero.

But it was not until the alleged victim’s mother contact school district officials – after Whitehurst gave birth – that educators got in touch with police, the affidavit states. That happened on Monday, when detectives went to speak with the ”John Doe,” who was 16 when the alleged relationship began and is 17 now.

The teen told detectives he had had an “ongoing” relationship with Whitehurst since July 2012, the document states.

“John Doe and Whitehurst met at a school sponsored trip to Disneyland, where they began communicating,” the affidavit states.

Their sexual relationship included “numerous instances of sexual intercourse and sexual oral copulation” that continued weekly after Whitehurst became pregnant last September, according to the document.

Whitehurst told the teen he was her only recent partner and therefore the father of the child, Povero wrote. The teen attended the birth, according to the document.

In his presence, Povero had the teen call Whitehurst, who on the phone confirmed their relationship and that the teen was the baby’s father, the detective wrote.

When Poverothen  spoke to Whitehurst in person, she confirmed the above details of the relationship, the detective wrote.

Officials with the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office told NBC4 they expect charges against Whitehurst to be filed July 8.

School district officials on Tuesday issued a statement that said the district was cooperating with the investigation.

"The District was recently made aware of allegations involving a high school student and teacher. We immediately notified the police and placed the employee on leave,” the statement read.

"Because we do not want to jeopardize the ongoing investigation, we are unable to comment further at this time," the school district statement continued. "We appreciate the quick response to our complaint by the Redlands Police Department. Our heart goes out to the victim and his family."

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<![CDATA[Police: Teacher Had Two Additional Victims]]>Wed, 03 Jul 2013 20:11:16 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/michaelcooperlaurawhitehurst.jpg

Police in Redlands, Calif., said Wednesday they had identified two additional victims of a high school teacher accused of having sex -- and a baby -- with a teen student.

Laura Elizabeth Whitehurst, 28, was arrested Monday and is accused of unlawful sexual intercouse with a minor. She gave birth last month to a baby allegedly fathered by a 16-year-old student of hers, authorities said Tuesday.

Following the public announcement of Whitehurst's arrest, police said they had learned of two other victims who both had alleged sexual relationships with Whitehurst beginning in fall of 2007 and into 2008, when the suspect was an English teacher at Redlands High School.

One victim was a 14-year-old freshman during the time of the alleged relationship.

"The victim, now 20, told police that he and Whitehurst had sex in her classroom before school, as well as at her apartment and in her car," a police news release stated.

Another man came forward and said he had a relationship with Whitehurst in 2007-08, when he was a junior in Whitehurst's class. The brief description from police of the relationship appears to match that offered by a man who spoke to NBC4 Southern California Wednesday, saying he had sex with Whitehurst while he was a pupil.

Whitehurst was released on $25,000 bail Monday evening after her arrest. On Wednesday, police released a mug shot of Whitehurst, shown below.

Police said a case would be submitted to the office of San Bernardino County District Attorney Michael Ramos next week, when additional charges will be determined. 

Meanwhile, Michael Cooper, now 23, approached news media to share a story of his junior year in high school, in 2007-08. Cooper said he had a physical relationship with Whitehurst, pictured in a 2013 yearbook photo below, who herself was 23 at the time of the affair he described.

"I didn't feel like a victim; I'm not scarred for life or anything,” Cooper told NBC4. “To be honest, I had a good time when it was going on."

Whitehurst is a teacher at Citrus Valley High School in Redlands, where the initially reported victim was a junior.

She was arrested after the boy's mother reported the alleged relationship to the Redlands Unified School District, which notified police. The school district on Tuesday said the teacher involved in the investigation had been placed on leave; the district did not give Whitehurst’s name.

On Wednesday, county DA Ramos told NBC4 he had a prosecutor assigned to the case who was working with the Redlands Police Department.

Ramos urged those who believe they were victims to contact Redlands police Detective Natasha Crawford, at (909) 798-7623.

"Some of the information we’re gathering, there’s possibility that that has been occurring for several years," Ramos said of Whitehurst.

"The investigation has just started," Ramos added. "Right now, my biggest concern is victims, and how many victims are out there."

Cooper said he had publicly shared his account of a relationship with Whithurst to encourage other potential victims to come forward to police.

He said that a fall 2007 assignment in Whitehurst’s English course on dreams led her to tell him after class that she had dreamt about kissing him in the mountains on a field trip.

Two days later, Cooper said, they kissed in her classroom.

"When it happens, you're kind of like, all right, this is pretty badass. You know, my teacher is into me," he said. "I was 17 and I was having a good time is what it was."

A couple of weeks later, she invited him to her apartment, he said. He spent the night, and after that, they saw each other a few times a month, he said.

"It's not like we went out to movies or dinner or anything," he said.

"There wasn't a thought of, 'I'm going to get in trouble' or 'Should I say something?'" he added. "It's more of like, 'Holy cow, this hot teacher is into me.'"

Cooper described Whitehurst as a "bubbly person" and a "friendly teacher" who blended in with students.

Toward the end of the school year, in spring 2008, Cooper said he began to feel guilty because he had a school-age girlfriend during the alleged affair with Whitehurst, Cooper said. He stopped returning the teacher’s texts and calls, and eventually they broke the affair off amicably, he said.

Cooper said he had since apologized to the girlfriend.

Cooper, pictured today above at left, said he got a "C+ or B" in the English class, adding he felt that he did not receive special treatment from Whitehurst.

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<![CDATA[Teacher Arrested After Allegedly Having Student's Baby]]>Wed, 03 Jul 2013 12:49:54 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/TeacherThumb1.jpg

A Redlands, Calif., high school teacher who gave birth to a baby allegedly fathered by a teen student has been arrested for having sex with the male pupil.

Laura Elizabeth Whitehurst, 28, was arrested Monday evening after being questioned at her home in Redlands.

She is a teacher at Citrus Valley High School, according to the Redlands Police Department, which issued a news release on the arrest Tuesday afternoon.

UPDATE: Former Pupil Says He Too Had Sex With Whitehurst

Whitehurst was taken into custody on suspicion on unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor and was released after posting $25,000 bail Monday evening.

The student was 16 at the time of the nearly year-long alleged relationship, according to police.

"One thing led to another, and he ended up at her residence, and it's been going on, going for approximately one year now," said Redlands police Cmdr. Shawn Ryan.

"She was open with her pregnancy. I don't know what her story was to everybody else, but it was an open pregnacy," Ryan added. "The school district knew about it."

The mother of the alleged victim, who is now 17, on Monday reported the relationship to the Redlands Unified School District, which in turn contacted police, according to Carl Baker, a police spokesman.

Whitehurst had given birth to a baby on June 18, the news release stated.

“Investigators say the child was fathered by the teen,” the news release stated.

The San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office has not yet received a case from police, according to spokesman Chris Lee.

Baker said police were still investigating. No booking photo of Whitehurst is available at this time, he said. The photo at right is from Citrus Valley High School's 2013 yearbook.

At an afternoon news conference, Baker issued a brief statement from the school district, which stated that the teacher had been placed on leave after police were notifed of the allegations. Whitehurst was not named in the statement, and the district said it would not comment at this time.

"The district takes this arrest very seriously," the statement read. "Our heart goes out to the victim and his family."

According to the school's online staff directory, Whitehurst is an English teacher.

Students who spoke to NBC4 Southern California lauded her performance as a teacher.

Citrus Valley High School has about 2,200 students, according to state records. It graduated its first senior class in 2012.

Anyone with additional information is asked to contact Detective Natasha Crawford at (909) 798-7623 or Redlands Police Dispatch at (909) 798-7681.
 

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<![CDATA[Parents Say Teacher Was Framed in Sex Assault Case]]>Thu, 27 Jun 2013 22:11:56 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/KNBC_000000007310733_722x406_35159107884.jpgAs a special education teacher in Corona awaits arraignment, many parents of her students are convinced that she was set up. Corona police say a parent found inappropriate emails allegedly sent by the teacher to a student. Investigators say that information led to other victims who claimed they had sexual encounters with the teacher. Tony Shin reports from Corona for the NBC4 News at 5 p.m. on June 27, 2013.]]><![CDATA[Ex-Teacher Admits to Having Sex With Student]]>Fri, 14 Jun 2013 06:07:31 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/brooksincourt.jpg

A former elementary school teacher admitted Thursday to having sex with a young student, reversing her not guilty plea from the day before.

Malia Brooks, 32, pleaded guilty to three counts of lewd acts with a child under age 14 and to the allegation that each act involved “substantial sexual conduct with a child,” according to Erin Meister, prosecutor with Ventura County District Attorney’s Office.

Brooks turned herself in Tuesday afternoon after police “negotiated” with her, the Simi Valley Police Department said in a news release Wednesday.

She had been a sixth-grade teacher at Garden Grove Elementary School since 2004.

The sole alleged male victim was a student at the K-6 school, but officials would not say if he was Brooks’ classes.

"There were no indications that Malia Brooks had other victims," authorities said.

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.

A teacher at the school’s Impact Academy, Brooks, pictured below, was placed on administrative leave Feb. 21. She resigned June 5, officials said at a Wednesday news conference.

Outside the courtroom Wednesday, 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."

The former educator’s bail was set $2 million after prosecutors deemed her to be a flight risk.

She is scheduled to be sentenced on Aug. 23

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<![CDATA[Ex-4th Grade Teacher Pleads Not Guilty to Sexual Abuse]]>Tue, 28 May 2013 20:23:58 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/214*120/pimentel1.jpg

A former Wilmington elementary school teacher pleaded not guilty Tuesday to several charges he sexually abused students, effectively pushing the case to trial.

Robert Pimentel taught fourth grade at George De La Torre Elementary School in Wilmington. He was removed from the classroom in March 2012 when the investigation began, according to police and the school district.

He began working for the Los Angeles Unified School District in 1974.

Pimentel was arrested Jan. 23 by the Los Angeles Police Department's Juvenile Division, and remains jailed on $12 million bail.

Speaking to the media for the first time, the former teacher’s sister supported her sibling and called the accusations against him “nothing short of a witch hunt.”

Lily Pimentel-Stratton said that as a Latino male, her brother is vulnerable.

"It's one thing when a female teacher strokes or hugs a child, that's perfectly acceptable and permitted,” she said. “But when a male teacher decides to put a hand on a shoulder or around a shoulder or comfort a child or reward a child or praise a child, it's immediately looked up as suspicion and something negative."

During a preliminary hearing, the stories of two of the 12 alleged victims were thrown out. Pimentel’s attorney said he believes the remaining 10 allegations are the product of coaching to make money and possibly fix immigration statuses for the alleged victims’ families.

“It’s gonna be a cold day in hell when you get to take a man’s freedom away so that a bunch of lawyers can make a profit,” attorney Joseph Yanny said.

An attorney representing three of the 10 remaining children in the case against Pimentel said Yanny is “totally baseless in his allegations.”

Attorney Luis Carillo said his Pasadena office did not receive a call until after Pimentel was arrested in January, nearly a year after the latest allegations surfaced.

"It's a fabrication on the part of the Defense attorney to allege that the kids are motivated by something other than the truth," Carillo said.

Now, it will be up to a jury to decide “the truth.”

A pretrial in the case is scheduled to start June 25. The trial could begin as early as July.

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<![CDATA[Teacher's Aide Accused of Molesting Disabled Teen]]>Mon, 13 May 2013 21:03:10 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/217*120/teachersaide.jpg

A Lawndale teacher's aide, who students describe as "a helper" during the lunch hour, has been charged with molesting a 16-year-old mentally challenged student in a stairwell, Centinela Valley Union High School District officials announced Monday.

Juan Carlos Gutierrez, 60, of Redondo Beach, was arrested Friday on suspicion of three misdemeanor counts of molesting a mentally disabled student at Leuzinger High School.

The alleged May 7 incident was recorded by a student's cell phone and a school surveillance camera. NBC4 was told neither recording was available, according to Los Angeles County Sheriff's officials, who are investigating the incident.

Gutierrez allegedly took the girl, who according to police has the mental capacity of an elementary school student, to a stairwell and fondled her.

Parents who had arrived on campus Monday were in disbelief.

"I'm shocked. I'm telling you because I would never thought something like that is going on here," said Gisella Alfaro, whose son is a junior at the school.

In a brief news conference Monday morning, district officials said Gutierrez was immediately removed from the campus and that parents were informed of the situation through an auto-alert message.

"This is a very emotional moment for Centinela Valley," said Jose Fernandez, superintendent of Centinela Valley Union High School District. "We have never had an incident of this nature and I want to let you know that the board of education and myself, the entire administrative team, take this very seriously."

Students who talked with NBC4 Monday said they are saddened by the alleged incident, and said they plan to look out for one another.

"Just makes me feel like I'm going to have to watch out a little more," student Breeze Cornelius said. "I'm going to keep an eye out for myself and other kids to make sure nothing like that happens."

Gutierrez was arrested at his Redondo Beach home at 5:30 p.m. May 10. He is being held on $60,000 bail, and is scheduled to appear in a Torrance courtroom Tuesday afternoon for his arraignment.

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<![CDATA[4th-Grade Teacher Ordered to Stand Trial in Sexual Abuse Case]]>Mon, 13 May 2013 15:04:30 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/robertpimentel.jpg

A former fourth-grade elementary school teacher accused of sexually abusing as many as 12 children and a female relative was ordered Monday to stand trial, according to the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office.

Robert Pimentel, 57, faces 14 counts of sexual abuse allegedly against students at George De La Torre Elementary School in Wilmington. Two charges of continued sexual abuse against Pimentel have been dismissed, according the the LA County District Attorney’s office.

He was removed from the school in March 2012 and placed on paid administrative leave, along with the school's principal at the time.

Pimentel worked for the Los Angeles County School District since 1974. He was arrested in January 2013 when his case was reopened.

The Newport Beach resident has been held in lieu of $14 million bail.

An investigation into the allegations began March 15, 2012, when a dozen young girls at George De La Torre Elementary School claimed that Pimentel, a teacher at the school, had touched them inappropriately.

Prosecutors alleged Pimentel abused some victims multiple times over a period from September 2011 to March 2012, according to earlier reports.

Enraged parents claimed on March 21 that the LAUSD purposely failed to investigate reports made to school years before the scandal.

Pimentel is scheduled to be arraigned May 28.

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<![CDATA[Teacher Accused Years Before Abuse Charges: Attorneys]]>Thu, 21 Mar 2013 22:04:06 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/georgedelatorre1.jpg

Lawyers for student victims of a teacher accused of sex abuse on Thursday said a parent had reported her child's mistreatment at a Wilmington elementary school years before it was uncovered by police.

They accused the Los Angeles Unified School District of purposefully failing to investigate the abuse by not following up on the complaint, which the attorney said was made by a parent in 2009 about teacher Robert Pimentel's treatment of her daughter.

Pimentel, who had worked for LAUSD since 1974, was arrested in January, about nine months after he was removed from his fourth-grade classroom at George De La Torre Jr. Elementary School during an investigation over accusations of sexual abuse against him.

Pimentel, pictured below, faces multiple charges of abusing a dozen girls, plus charges related to an older alleged abuse crimes

On Thursday, a group of attorneys told news media they believed LAUSD had "covered up" Pimentel's crimes at the school near the Port of Los Angeles.

"As a result of our investigation in the George De La Torre … abuse by Pimentel, we have uncovered evidence that in the year 2009, the parents were complaining about a whole host of problems, including that one mother complained Pimentel touched her daughter inappropriately," attorney Luis Carrillo said.

Carrillo said he and other attorneys for the families believe that report about Pimentel to a district official must have been escalated to higher leadership levels, even to then-Superintendent Ramon Cortines.

"Those reports have never seen the light of day, they're buried and hidden in this building," Carrillo said, speaking in front of LAUSD's headquarters in downtown LA. "They don't want the community to know how miserably they failed to protect children."

The accusation, which echoes similar ones made by Carrillo and other attorneys just weeks ago, comes as the nation's second-largest school district faces continuing revelations of sex abuse at its campuses. Last week, the district announced a multimillion-dollar settlement of claims over abuse at Miramonte Elementary School.

Meanwhile, Carrillo has submitted a public records request to the school district seeking documents he believes will describe the parent's 2009 complaint about Pimentel, and he encourages news media to do ask for such documents as well.

David Holmquist, LAUSD's general counsel, confirmed at a news conference that a parent at the school had met with district officials in 2009, but could not say what was discussed.

Holmquist said all records related to Pimentel had been turned over to Los Angeles Police Department investigators.

He said the district would review the attorneys' records request.

Holmquist also said the district responds differently now than it did under 2009 policies, noting that the current superintendent, John Deasy, immediately removed Pimentel from the classroom and also fired George De La Torre Elementary Principal Irene Hinojosa for failing to report the abuse.

"When we learned of the allegations involving Mr. Pimentel, Superintendent Deasy acted swiftly and asked the board to dismiss the gentleman," Holmquist said.

A new investigative unit responds to all abuse claims now, Holmquist said.

The attorneys at the news conference Thursday referred repeatedly to a state audit issued in November that found fault with district handling of abuse claims, saying they were not properly reported to authorities.

"The state audit confirms everything we're saying," Carrillo said.

He called for Deasy to be removed.

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<![CDATA[Lawyers Accuse LAUSD of Trying to Cover Up Abuse]]>Fri, 22 Feb 2013 23:14:10 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/215*120/georgedelatorre.jpg

Lawyers for at least four students in the Los Angeles Unified School District accused the district on Friday of trying to cover up allegations of teacher abuse by tossing out charges, but the district said it’s all a misunderstanding.

The abuse allegations were leveled against former teacher Robert Pimentel, who used to work at George De La Torre Jr. Elementary School in Wilmington.

"What we have here is systematic attempts to cover up further sexual abuse of students within the LAUSD," said attorney Michael Carrillo.

Carillo and other students’ lawyers received letters from the school district stating that, by law, the claims of abuse were being rejected because they were not submitted in time. The attorneys said that move is an attempt to protect the school’s staff, and not children, among them at least 20 who may have been victimized by Pimentel.

But the school district chalked it up to what officials called a clerical error. In a statement released Friday, the district said, in part, that the rejection letters were inadvertently sent out and that the district is continuing to review the four claims submitted in this case "the attention they deserve."

Pimentel, 57, of Newport Beach, left his position with the school during the investigation, which began March 15, 2012.

The investigation began when several girls told their parents that they had been inappropriately touched by a fourth-grade teacher during school.

Related stories:

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<![CDATA[Ex-Miramonte Teacher Could Face More Charges]]>Wed, 06 Feb 2013 23:51:55 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/mark+berndt+2+6+2013.JPG

After a year in custody on accusations he sexually abusing his students, former LAUSD teacher Mark Berndt has been put on notice he may face more charges.

Berndt is already facing 23 counts of lewd conduct related to the student abuse scandal at Miramonte Elementary School.

Authorities arrested Berndt in February 2012 after the discovery of incriminating photographs that, according to investigators, showed Berndt feeding students cookies topped with his bodily fluids.

After his arrest, sheriff's investigators disclosed they had come across more photos of additional children, which first raised the possibility of additional counts.

At a court hearing in Downtown LA on Wednesday, prosecutors said they expected to make a decision by Berndt's next court appearance in April. However, they declined to comment on how many additional counts they are considering or why the uncertainty has lasted so long.

"The prosecution and law enforcement have had a significant chunk of time to get their ducks in a row," defense attorney Manny Medrano said. "I'd be surprised if there's additional charges, but if there are we'll be ready to aggressively defend against them."

Berndt remains in custody on $26 million bail.

At the judge's request, prosecutors will consider the possibility of offering Berndt a plea agreement, even as they consider filing more charges against him.

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<![CDATA[Parent: "I Don't Feel Safe With My Kids Here"]]>Thu, 31 Jan 2013 23:11:09 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/12220747_N5PALTALOMATEACHER_722x406_17097795689.jpgAllegations against an educator at Alta Loma Elementary School surfaced weeks ago and the teacher was removed from the classroom. But parents were only recently told and in vague terms. On Thursday, they rallied outside the school to demand answers. John Cádiz Klemack reports from Mid City for the NBC4 News at 5 p.m. on Jan. 31, 2013.]]><![CDATA[Lawsuit Goes After 20 Years of LAUSD Officials]]>Wed, 30 Jan 2013 00:03:59 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/12200194_N5PLAUSDABUSELAWSUIT_722x406_16692803526.jpgA new lawsuit against the Los Angeles Unified School District claims the district has been mishandling teacher abuse allegations for two decades. Attorney Brian Claypool alleges the LAUSD has known about and protected child predators. Kim Baldonado reports from Downtown LA for the NBC4 News at 5 p.m. on Jan. 29, 2013.]]><![CDATA[Senator: "Rampant Sex Abuse" at LAUSD]]>Mon, 28 Jan 2013 23:16:38 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/martha-Escutia-senator-lausd.jpg

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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<![CDATA[Ex-Teacher Pleads Not Guilty in School Sex Abuse Case]]>Fri, 25 Jan 2013 00:54:48 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/George+De+La+Torre+Jr.+Elementary.jpg

A retired teacher pleaded not guilty Thursday to charges of sexually abusing children while a teacher at George De La Torre, Jr., Elementary School in Wilmington.

Robert Pimentel, 57, of Newport Beach, pleaded not guilty to 15 counts of child sexual abuse of 12 victims, according to the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office.

The investigation began when several girls told their parents that they had been inappropriately touched by a fourth-grade teacher during school at George De La Torre Jr. Elementary School.

Parents reacted on Thursday to the news of the arrest.

“We bring our kids to school thinking that it’s the safest place for them to be,” said parent Daisy Torres, after a closed-door meeting with 106 parents and LAUSD officials. “And for us to find out that it’s happening in school and it’s one of the teachers in the class, it worries me because here we’re working and thinking they’re safe and they’re actually not.”

Pimentel left his position with the school during the investigation, which began March 15, 2012.

Prosecutors allege Pimentel abused 12 children under 14-years-old from September 2011 to March 2012. Some of the victims were abused multiple times, prosecutors said.

"There was no touching of any private parts by anybody," said Pimentel's attorney, Richard Knickerbocker.

Students' parents were told about the allegations last March within 72 hours of Pimental's removal from campus, in accordance with LAUSD policy, school officials said.

Coincidentally, that's also when the school's principal, Irene Hinojosa, retired. LAPD officials told NBC4 late Thursday that Hinojosa could face charges in connection with the investigation.

Magdalena Gonzalez, a school volunteer, says Hinojosa should be held accountable, in addition to the school district. Gonzalez says a group of concerned parents had their suspicions about Pimentel and reported him to Hinojosa, but Gonzalez claims parents were ignored.

"That's the pattern of the LA Unified School District," said Luis Carrillo, who represented victims in the Miramonte sex scandal. "Parents complain, parents are ignored."

Pimentel had worked for the LAUSD since 1974. He was assigned to the school in Wilmington in 2007.

Anyone with information about the case was asked to contact police at 213-486-0570.

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<![CDATA[Ex-Teacher Arrested in School Sex Abuse Case]]>Thu, 24 Jan 2013 00:32:45 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/George+De+La+Torre+Jr.+Elementary.jpg

A former Wilmington elementary school teacher was arrested Wednesday in a school sexual abuse case allegedly involving at least 20 children and one adult, according to police.

Robert Pimental, 57, was arrested Wednesday and is being held on $12 million bail.

The Newport Beach man faces eight counts of continuous sexual abuse and seven counts of lewd acts upon a child, according to a statement from the Los Angeles Police Department.

"The investigation began when several girls told their parents that they had been inappropriately touched by a fourth-grade teacher during school at George De La Torre Jr. Elementary," the statement read.

Pimental left his position with the school during the investigation, which began March 15, 2012.

"When the District first learned of the allegations, the teacher was immediately removed from
campus ... Dismissal proceedings were initiated," LAUSD spokesman Daryl Strickland said in a statment. "Before the Board of Education could act on dismissal, he chose to retire."

Students' parents were told about the allegations last March within 72 hours of Pimental's removal from campus, in accordance with LAUSD policy, Strickland said.

United Teachers Los Angeles, a union that represents LA educators, said in a statment that it is "not familiar" with the allegations against Pimental, adding that after his resignation, Pimental is no longer a member of the union.

"The allegations described are horrific," the statement read. "As teachers we have a duty to uphold the trust our students and their parents place in us."

Pimental had worked for the Los Angeles Unified School District since 1974.

George De La Torre Jr. Elementary is located at 500 North Island Ave. in Wilmington, a largely Latino Los Angeles Harbor Area neighborhood with about 50,000 residents. The school, opened to fanfare in 2006, has about 800 students.

Anyone with information about the case was asked to contact police at 213-486-0570.

NOTE: LAPD initially said an adult is among the 20 alleged victims. The department later said all the alleged victims are children before then updating the figure to 20 children and one adult.

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<![CDATA[El Segundo Teacher Accused of Child Sex Assault]]>Thu, 25 Oct 2012 08:14:39 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/simonek-teacher-el-segundo.jpg

A 27-year-old elementary school teacher accused of sexually assaulting two students last year in a classroom was arrested Wednesday on suspicion of lewd acts with a child.

The fifth-grade teacher -- Jeffrey Simonek -- has been on administrative leave during the investigation, which began Aug. 2 after investigators received a report through the Department of Children and Family Services. He was booked Wednesday on suspicion of lewd acts with a child under 14 years of age and jailed on $300,000 bail.

The criminal acts allegedly occurred in a classroom last year at Center Street School in El Segundo.

Simonek also worked as a camp counselor for boys at a Lake Tahoe area summer camp from 2005 to 2011, according to El Segundo police. He allegedly committed "similar criminal acts with young boys" at the camp, police said.

Refresh this page for updates.

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<![CDATA[New Miramonte Principal Seeks to Repair Trust]]>Fri, 10 Aug 2012 23:44:07 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/miramonte-school-front.jpg

For Miramonte Elementary School, next Tuesday will mark more than the start of a new school year. It will be, in-effect, the reboot of a school shaken by charges last February that two teachers were accused of sexually abusing students.

"My concern is for student safety and academics," said Martha Contreras, Miramonte Elementary School principal.

Contreras came to the South LA school as an assistant principal last spring, when the school and community were reeling from the abuse scandal. Now, she’s taken on pressing challenges as the school’s new principal.

"I think there's a layer of things that needs to be done here at Miramonte. Number one is re-establishing the trust," she said.

Following the arrest of two Miramonte teachers accused of sexually abusing students, the school’s entire staff was replaced by substitutes last February.

Timeline: Miramonte School Scandal

Those former teachers – Mark Berndt and Martin Springer – are both scheduled to be in court next week as their former school is rebooting.

Parents and staff rallied to bring them back and dozens of the relocated teachers are returning in the fall, but not without anxiety.

"These teachers continue to suffer the aftershocks of everything that happened at Miramonte," said Ingrid Villeda, with the United Teachers of Los Angeles union.

Villeda told NBC4 the returning teachers don’t want to speak out publicly ahead of the new school year, as they did in May, but they do hope the administration will schedule a meeting with parents to deal with lingering concerns.

"They want to make sure the parents and kids feel comfortable," Villeda said.

Contreras said a community meeting is in the works.

Enrollment will be lower when Miramonte starts on Aug. 14, partly due to plans set before the abuse scandal broke.

Several hundred students will transfer to a new school nearby that was already in the works to ease overcrowding. A dozen teachers will relocate with them, having helped draft the education plan for the new site while they were on relocation.

Principals throughout LA say they are aware of the expectation of vigilance on their part.

"The principal is the first line of defense," Contreras said.

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<![CDATA[Deasy: Teacher-Review Bill Failure "Shameful"]]>Thu, 28 Jun 2012 19:04:35 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/deasy-john-superintendent-lausd-june28.jpg

Legislation that would have expedited the disciplinary review process for teachers accused of sexual abuse failed to clear the Assembly Education Committee Wednesday.

Senate Bill 1530, sponsored by Sen. Alex Padilla,  would have made streamlined the process for firing teachers accused of crimes involving sexual abuse, violence and drug offenses.

LAUSD Superintedent John Deasy blamed powerful lobbying forces for the bill's rejection.

"When we want students' rights protected, maybe we need a union," said Deasy

The bill was written out of response to the Miramonte Elementary scandal in which two teachers were charged with sexually abusing students.

Ongoing Coverage: Miramonte School Investigation

It would have allowed evidence more than four years old to be considered in dismissal hearings, which supporters contend may have brought the Miramonte case to light sooner.

The bill also would have sped up the firing process for teachers accused of sex crimes, drug offenses and child abuse by having those cases heard by an administrative law judge. The final decision would have been determined by the school district.

But the legislation was strongly opposed by teachers unions, which insisted that steps were already in place which should have prevented the Miramonte situation and others like it.

"I think it's shameful," said Deasy. "I think the vote and what eventually has happened has been shameful for students and for employees in the State of California.

"We basically have said that students who are brutally molested by employees, we cannot actually expedite their firing. I am disheartened, but undeterred. But I am incredibly disheartened."

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<![CDATA[Coach Arrested in Sex Crime Investigation]]>Wed, 27 Jun 2012 18:46:16 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Earl+Wayne+Gann+2.jpg

A 56-year-old soccer coach was in custody Wednesday for alleged inappropriate sexual conduct in the training room at Ontario Christian High School, police said.

Police said Earl Wayne Gann, who began coaching the girls' junior varsity soccer team last year after coaching soccer for the American Youth Soccer Organization (AYSO), “touched and kissed” a 14-year-old girl when they were alone in the training room.

Ongoing Coverage: School Abuse Scandal

School Superintendent Ryan Groen said Gann has been suspended and all of the schools' parents have been informed.

Ontario Police Sgt. David McBride said the girl told school administrators about the incident. They in turn notified San Bernardino County Child Protective Services, who informed Ontario police.

“This was definitely an unwanted advance,” McBride said. “It’s got to be devastating.”

Gann was arrested Tuesday without incident during a traffic stop near his home in Corona, police said.

He was charged with two felony counts of lewd acts with a child, and bail was set at $750,000, McBride said.

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<![CDATA[LAUSD Teacher's Aide Accused of Lewd Acts]]>Thu, 17 May 2012 23:37:54 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/classroom-generic722x406.jpg

A teacher's aide at Gratts Elementary School near downtown Los Angeles has been arrested after allegations of inappropriate behavior involving a child, according to Los Angeles Unified School District officials.

Ongoing Coverage: School Abuse Scandal

The alleged crimes did not take place at the school, and it's not clear if the victim was a student, an LAUSD spokesperson said.

The aide was identified by school officials as 25-year-old Jorge Luis Dominguez, a temporary teacher's aide.

"I'm digusted because he's around our kids," said one mother who was upset with the district's notification process.

Jail records showed Dominguez was arrested at 4:42 a.m. His bail amount was set at $100,000. No court date has been scheduled.

"The allegations against Jorge Dominguez... regarding lewd acts with a child and criminal acts against children are horrifying and sickening," Superintendent John Deasy said in a statement.

The district learned of the accusations and arrest Thursday morning, according to the statement. 

Dominguez worked at the school, located west of downtown LA, since 2004, both as a teacher's aide and coach. He was to be terminated Thursday, according to the district.

Notifications from the school district were being sent to parents and guardians of students at Gratts Elementary, and crisis counseling is set to be offered to any victims.

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Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Teacher Removed From La Mirada Middle School]]>Wed, 02 May 2012 05:40:45 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/217*120/la+mirada+sub.jpg

Facebook and text messages are among the media a La Mirada substitute teacher is suspected of using to engage in inappropriate contact with a middle school student, Los Angeles County Sheriff’s officials said.

Ongoing Coverage: School Abuse Scandal

Taylor Welch, 22, was arrested Tuesday morning at his La Mirada home on suspicion of felony lewd acts upon a child and distributing obscene material to a minor, authorities said.

Welch served as a substitute teacher at Hutchinson Middle School in La Mirada, where he met the 13-year-old girl in his classroom.

Detectives said they found each other on Facebook and a friendship developed.

That friendship allegedly led to the “unlawful exchange of sexually graphic photographs, live video feed and sexting messages between the suspect and the child,” detectives said in a statement released Tuesday afternoon.

Inappropriate personal contact also occurred in the classroom after class, according to the statement, which was signed with a link to a parents’ guide to social networking sites.

An investigation began on April 24 after a parent notified school officials they were suspicious about possible inappropriate contact between the teacher and the student.

The 13-year-old girl reportedly showed her friend photographs stored on her cell phone, which prompted the parent to inform school leaders, sheriff’s said.

Welch was a substitute teacher at Hutchinson Middle School since September 2011.

Detectives said he has not substitute taught at any other school and has been “relieved of his duties” at Hutchinson.

He is being held on $140,000 bail.

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<![CDATA[Teacher Removed from JFK HS in Granada Hills]]>Fri, 27 Apr 2012 22:05:48 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/school-generic.jpg

A teacher was removed from John F. Kennedy High School in Granada Hills Tuesday amid allegations of misconduct, according to a letter sent home Friday.

Complete Coverage: School Abuse Scandal

That letter claims that due to “legal constraints regarding confidential personnel matters, the details of this incident cannot be disclosed.”

LAUSD officials said the teacher in question is currently working at a non-teaching facility.

A similar note when home with students at Rancho Dominguez Preparatory High School exactly one week ago after a substitute teacher there was removed amid allegations he was secretly videotaping students.

That teacher had been working at the school two days before a student noticed the camera and told officials.

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<![CDATA[Substitute Teacher Removed After Two Days]]>Fri, 20 Apr 2012 18:41:25 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/234*120/rancho+dominguez+prep.jpg

A substitute teacher was working at Rancho Dominguez Preparatory School for two days before being removed from campus amid allegations of misconduct, according to a letter sent home to parents Friday.

A student reportedly found a camera that had fallen out from under the substitute teacher's desk. When asked about the camera, the teacher reportedly told the student it was none of his business, the student said to school officials.

Related: Slurs, Profanity Preceded Long Beach Student Brawl

The letters lacked specifics, and did not tell parents the grade level or the accusations against the teacher, who reportedly worked with sixth-grade students.

"I can just imagine what he was doing with the tape," said Rosalin Victor, whose daughter attends Rancho Dominguez Prep. "It's sad."

The employee was put on administrative leave last week when school officials learned of the allegations. That administrative leave has since become termination, since the substitute teacher is an at-will employee and can be let go without cause.

Complete Coverage: School Abuse Scandal

But the letter released Friday morning notes that he will not return to campus "until the investigation is complete and the allegations are determined to be unfounded," Principal Keri Lew wrote in the letter, which were available in English and Spanish.

"Where there is a presumption of innocence in matters of this nature, the District takes each and every reported act of misconduct seriously,” Lew wrote. “We are committed to aggressively pursuing each case to determine the truth and, if necessary, initiate the appropriate disciplinary or administrative measures."

The details of the incident are "confidential and cannot be disclosed," per the Long Beach Police Department, which is investigating the case, Lew wrote.

School officials learned about the incident last week and began calling parents Thursday night.

"We're thankful that students made this known," said Darel Strickland, LAUSD spokesman. "I think students should be given a lot of credit."

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Photo Credit: NBC4's John Cadiz Klemack]]>
<![CDATA[School Coordinator Arrested in Sex Case]]>Fri, 13 Apr 2012 11:56:06 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/progadminsexarrest.jpg

A 26-year-old afterschool program coordinator at a Lawndale elementary school was arrested in connection with having sexual relations with a 16-year-old boy.

The case came to light on April 5 when the boy and his mother reported to police that he had been involved for eight months in consensual sexual relations with Mariya Markel Aldridge who was an afterschool program coordinator at Kit Carson Elementary School, police said.

Complete Coverage: School Abuse Scandal

Aldridge, 26, of Hawthorne, resigned from her post a day after her arrest on charges of unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor. She was released from custody after posting bail.

Police told the Torrance Daily Breeze that the two had sex at Aldridge's Hawthorne home and at her workplace.

The boy reported he has known Aldridge for several years and that they began a relationship at toward the end of 2011.

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<![CDATA[Ex-Teacher Pleads Not Guilty to Child Porn]]>Mon, 02 Apr 2012 23:36:14 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Eugene+Ballantyne+wide+shot+black+bars.jpg

A former social studies teacher accused of exchanging sexually explicit images with a 13 year old in New Jersey pleaded not guilty Monday, according to FBI officials.

Eugene Ballntyne, 29, of Running Springs, was charged with five counts, including sexual exploitation of a minor and receipt and possession of a child pornography, on March 23.

Ballantyne is accused sending nude photos of himself to a victim, whom he met in a chat room under the false name John Baldwin, wrote Laura Eimiller with Los Angeles FBI in a news release Monday.

Four more minor-aged victims have been identified in the investigation, which started last month when one victim’s parent contacted detectives in the South Brunswick, New Jersey, according to a criminal complaint filed in the U.S. District Court on March 9.

Ballantyne expressed his love for the victim and in at least one message said "how lucky" he was that the victim was "in his life," Eimiller wrote in a statement released in March.

Ballantyne, who taught at Arrowview Middle School in San Bernardino, reportedly admitted to agents during a federal search warrant that he had been communicating with the minor in New Jersey and two more minors he met online, Eimiller wrote.

He admitted to police that he had sex with one of those additional victims after traveling 180 miles to where she was, Eimiller wrote.

If convicted of all charges, Ballantyne faces as a statutory maximum sentence of life in prison. His trial is scheduled for May 1.

Anyone with information about this case, or the unreported victimization of minors, is urged to contact the FBI at 888 226-8443.

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<![CDATA[Winnetka Teacher Accused of Misconduct]]>Fri, 30 Mar 2012 12:26:31 -0700https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/196*120/school+generic.JPG

A male teacher at a Winnetka middle school has been removed from the classroom after accusations he possibly abused female students.

School district officials on Friday would not release his name, a grade level, nor allegation, saying the information is confidential. He is being housed in a non-teaching office, said Ellen Morgan, a spokeswoman at the Los Angeles Unified School District.

Parents received letters and a phone message on Thursday, saying officials are investigating allegations of misconduct by a school employee, Morgan said.

"The employee has been removed from the campus and will not return until the investigation is complete and the allegations are determined to be unfounded," the phone message said. "The details of this incident are confidential and cannot be disclosed."

Ongoing Coverage: School Abuse Scandal

The news comes on the heels of a 72-hour notification policy requiring school officials to disclose basic information when a teacher is removed from the classroom for allegations of sexual misconduct. The only exception would occur if the district was specifically advised by law enforcement not to release the information within that time frame, LAUSD said.

"The intent with our policy has always been to enable law enforcement to conduct investigations in an environment free from bias, and to let parents and guardians know within a reasonable amount of time if a teacher has been accused of a serious offense," said LAUSD Superintendent John Deasy. "We believe that the new rule strikes the proper balance between the two."

Attorney Brian Claypool, who is representing several families in litigation involving a former teacher at Miramonte Elementary School over alleged abuse, said a colleague of the teacher at Sutter sent a letter to school administrators raising concerns about possible inappropriate behavior.

In the letter, the teacher claimed that several female students complained to him about the actions of the teacher -- including touching and flirting.

“He overheard these kids talking in his classroom about this other teacher, so he intervened and said, ‘Hey, what are you all talking about?’” Claypool said during a Thursday press conference. “And then these kids opened up to him and said, ‘Hey we feel very uncomfortable around this teacher. We're afraid, we don't feel comfortable.’”

Claypool told reporters that school and district administrators failed to act on the allegations in the letter for a week.

“We've learned from Miramonte that 20 years ago nothing was done to take those complaints serious,” Claypool said. “And had they been taken serious, we could have avoided the entire Miramonte tragedy.”

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