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.
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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.