Teacher Accuses Another of Abusing Her 13 Years Ago When a Student - NBC Southern California

Teacher Accuses Another of Abusing Her 13 Years Ago When a Student

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    Teacher Accuses Another of Sexually Assaulting Her When a Student 13 Years Ago

    A Norwalk High School teacher has been placed on leave after a recently assigned substitute teacher accused him of sexually assaulting her 13 years ago when she was a student. Patrick Healy reports for the NBC4 News on Friday, Nov. 30, 2018. (Published Friday, Nov. 30, 2018)

    Rina Cervantes had told herself she would never speak of it.

    Thirteen years ago, she was a 16 year old Norwalk High school junior with a schoolgirl crush on one of her teachers, only to have her innocence shattered after school when, she said, he inappropriately touched her beneath her clothing.

    "I made a mistake to think it was an isolated event," Cervantes says.

    Trying to put the episode behind her, she had gone on to get her bachelor's degree at UCLA, and began building a career as a singer and songwriter known as Rain Bisou, while working as a substitute teacher in several districts.

    Her #MeToo realization came this past week, she said, when she found herself assigned back at her high school alma mater. As is her practice in a new classroom, she began by telling students a little about herself -- in particular that she's a product of Norwalk High.

    She did not initially mention her unsettling experience, but said students brought up that teacher and their concerns about him, wanting to know if when she was a student he was already a "weirdo" who they told her invaded the space of female students and made sexualized comments.

    "I started to grow very concerned, because it gave me a different perspective on what my abuse was," Cervantes says.

    She decided to confront the episode again, put it in writing, and Wednesday she posted it on her blog and on social media.  

    It came to the attention of educators at Norwalk High, and Friday morning Cervantes met with officials at the headquarters of the Norwalk-La Mirada Unified School District. She said Norwalk's principal urged her also to speak to law enforcement. She went to the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Norwalk station to file a report and speak with an investigator.

    Cervantes was informed the teacher had been removed from his classroom Thursday, she said.

    This was confirmed in a statement issued Friday by the district.

    "The teacher in question has been placed on administrative leave and a thorough internal investigation has begun," stated Robert Jacobsen, general counsel. "Additionally, administrators from the District and Norwalk High School will be working closely with law enforcement officials until their investigation has been completed."

    NBCLA was unable to contact the teacher on leave, and is not naming him while the allegation is under investigation.

    In response to Cervantes's blog, several people online have asserted that they too were also subjected to inappropriately sexualized behavior by the teacher, in some cases allegedly including physical contact. Cervantes has agreed to help connect them with investigators.

    "I'm comfortable with the knowledge that by sharing my story, I'm giving other women the courage to do the same thing," says Cervantes. She added that she was encouraged by the responses of the district and the sheriff's investigator.

    While speaking with the students, Cervantes says, she decided not to go into detail, but did want let them know she also had an uncomfortable experience.

    "I just wanted to show them: yes, this also happened to me, you know, me too."

    Full text of November 30 statement from Norwalk-La Mirada School District:

    "Norwalk-La Mirada Unified School District officials were notified on November 30, 2018 regarding allegations of inappropriate sexual behavior by a current Norwalk High School teacher against a former student which purportedly occurred approximately twelve years ago. The District was notified that an incident report was filed today with the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department. The safety of our students and staff is our highest priority and has our unwavering commitment. Upholding the District's zero-tolerance policy, we take all allegations of misconduct of any kind very seriously. The teacher in question has been placed on administrative leave and a thorough internal investigation has begun. Additionally, administrators from the District and Norwalk High School will be working closely with law enforcement officials until their investigation has been completed. We appreciate the swift action of all involved once the allegations became known. Because this is a personnel matter, we are not able to make any additional comments regarding the case at this time."