May 8, 2013: Education reporter Howard Blume reported in yesterday's Los Angeles Times that the Los Angeles Unified School District "knew of sexual misconduct allegations in 2009 against a teacher at [George De La Torre, Jr. Elementary School in Wilmington] but failed to act," according to attorney Luis Carillo, who is representing the plaintiffs in a lawsuit against LAUSD. Carillo's claim is based "on a document dated Oct. 12, 2009, that is labeled confidential. The document, which appears to be from the school district, is a report on a protest by parents outside the back gate of the school," Blume writes.
At left, the defendant, Robert Pimentel, 57, had been teaching in the LAUSD for 36 years before his arrest in January 2013; he is in jail in lieu of a $12-million bail.
"Parents stated that there is a male teacher named [Robert] Pimentel who has been known to touch female students inappropriately," the document states. "The parents reported that he caresses the girls, gives them candy and photographs them without parent permission.
"Further, there was a [family member] who was too afraid to give the name of her niece who was inappropriately touched by this teacher. One parent stated that during culmination last year, [the teacher] rubbed a student's back several times, stroking her bra strap. The parents reported this behavior to the principal without any response. The parents stated that [Principal Irene Hinojosa] is friends with this teacher from their last school and this is why she is protecting him."
Pimentel has been charged with sexual misconduct involving 12 children under the age of 14. Fourteen felony counts involve alleged abuse between September 2011 and mid-March 2012, well after the complaints about the teacher apparently surfaced in this internal report. Two additional counts date to earlier years...
The district "never called the police in October 2009 and they didn’t file the suspected child abuse report," Carrillo said. "They did nothing and Pimentel continued his molestation." Eventually, he added, "parents bypassed the school officials and went straight to the [Los Angeles Police Department]."
Carrillo said the document came from sources outside of the school system. L.A. Unified, he added, has refused to provide documents relevant to the case.
After Carillo's announcement, LAUSD officials released the following comment, as reported on KCBS News:
“We take all allegations of misconduct seriously. Although we must protect the confidentiality promise to parents as part of the 2009 mediation, we can say with certainty that any allegations of misconduct were promptly reported to the appropriate authorities. Furthermore, when Dr. Deasy was provided with new information in the case in early February, he immediately handed it over to the Los Angeles Police Department. The school district also launched its own administrative investigation by an outside agency into the handling of this matter.”
As Blume noted in the L.A. Times:
...shortly after Pimentel's arrest, L.A. schools Supt. John Deasy said De La Torre Principal Irene L. Hinojosa had been aware of allegations against Pimentel in 2002 and 2008. She apparently never reported these allegations, which was a major factor in her removal in 2012, Deasy said.
In January, regarding the elementary school principal's failure to report allegations of sexual abuse, Deasy told a reporter from The Daily Beast:
“I am very angry...You tell me you knew about a complaint and you didn’t act on it? You are gone, and if you touch a kid, you are gone. If you know about it and you don’t report it, you are going to lose your job. We are mandated to report it. It is the law.”
Both Pimentel and Hinojosa resigned last year as the district was preparing to fire them.
Other district employees quickly came under internal scrutiny as well, based on statements by parents and allegations made by attorneys representing students and their families in a spate of alleged sexual misconduct cases.
On April 19, the district placed four administrators on paid leave in connection with case: Linda Del Cueto, who was most recently the senior instructional administrator in the San Fernando Valley; Mike Romero, head of the adult education division; David Kooper, principal at Gulf Elementary in Wilmington; and Valerie Moses, principal at Los Angeles Elementary in Harvard Heights.
The letterhead on the document released by Carrillo lists the "Office of Human Relations, Diversity and Equity" within "School Operations." It talks of being based on interviews conducted by Holly Priebe-Diaz, a district intervention specialist. She has not been relieved of her duties.
Carrillo and at least one parent said Pimentel was accused of misconduct in mediation sessions attended by Priebe-Diaz and Del Cueto. At the time, Del Cueto was the senior administrator in the region for the L.A. Unified School District. The goal of the mediation was to ease tensions between parents and Principal Hinojosa.
Regardless of the forum, sexual misconduct allegations must be reported to law enforcement under state law and district policy.