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.
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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.