By Barbara Jones, Staff Writer | LA Daily News | http://bit.ly/zKHNQi
PDF: Statement of LAUSD Board Member Nury Martinez regarding crimes against children at Telfair Elementary School [published previously in 4LAKidsNews]
02/10/2012 09:29:29 PM PST :: Angry that parents were never told a Telfair Elementary School teacher had been charged with molesting four children, school board member Nury Martinez called Friday for the district to set guidelines for notifying the public in sex-abuse cases.
Crisis counselors were on the Pacoima campus Friday to speak with students while Martinez met with dozens of parents to discuss the Oct. 8 arrest of Paul William Chapel, 50, a longtime teacher at the campus. Principal Alfonso Jimenez held a closed-door meeting with parents on Friday night, and a meeting with Superintendent John Deasy was set for Monday.
According to Martinez, she was unaware of the allegations although Chapel had been removed from the classroom in April 2011, when the Los Angeles Police Department began investigating a complaint against him.
She said she learned of Chapel's arrest when it was reported Friday in the Daily News.
"There has to be another way," said Martinez, who described herself as "outraged" at being kept in the dark. "I pledge to you that we're going to find a process, to figure out how to let parents know what is going on in their schools."
The 16-count criminal complaint includes charges of continual sexual abuse against three girls and one boy, all under age 14, between Sept. 13, 2010, and April 15, 2011. Chapel is also charged with committing a lewd act with the boy and two of the girls.
Chapel - whom the Sheriff's Department says is 6 foot 2 and 300 pounds - also is charged with committing a lewd act against the third girl that involved "the use of force violence, duress, menace and the threat of great bodily harm."
He remains jailed on $2.2 million bail, with a preliminary hearing set for Feb. 21. Chapel is on unpaid leave from the district, and his health benefits have been suspended, officials said. His state teaching credential has been suspended, as well.
According to Martinez, LAPD detectives "ordered" the school district to hold off on its own internal investigation of Chapel and to withhold information from the public while they worked their case.
But, the LAPD put out a statement late Friday saying the department only "suggested" the district delay discussing the case publicly and postpone the internal investigation so as not to compromise the investigation.
However, the statement added, "The Department would not ask LAUSD to withhold notification to the parents of the allegations."
The LAPD said the department interviewed 22 Telfair students as part of the investigation. Chapel had no prior criminal record until his October arrest.
It was unclear Friday whether the LAPD had ever notified the district of Chapel's arrest. LAUSD officials have previously said the district is routinely notified of arrests involving its employees.
Martinez said she understands the need to maintain the integrity of law-enforcement investigations, but also wants parents to know about about alleged crimes committed against children at schools.
"I will also work with the superintendent and my colleagues to review and rectify procedures and practices that are continuing to keep families and communities in the dark when our children have been victimized right under our noses on school grounds that should be safe havens for all students," she said.
Chapel's neighbors in Chatsworth said he lived quietly with his 27-year-old son, Donald, in a home where a power boat was parked in the front yard.
"I'm floored. I can't believe it. He's been a perfect neighbor," said Dolores Ponticelli, 80, who lives two houses away from Chapel. "I have never, never seen a neighborhood child on his property, ever."
Los Angeles Unified is already dealing with the fallout of a sex-abuse scandal at Miramonte Elementary near South Los Angeles, where two former teachers have been charged with molestation.
District officials have been criticized for withholding information during a year-long sheriff's investigation of Mark Berndt, a third-grade teacher who was fired in January 2011. He remains jailed on $23 million bail, accused of feeding his semen to students in a "tasting game."
Staff Writer Dana Bartholomew contributed to this report.
smf: We really don’t need guidelines – we need the truth.