L.A. Unified officials let abuse allegations slide, lawyers say
Two high-level district employees heard but failed to act on accusations of sexual misconduct by an elementary school teacher, according to attorneys representing alleged victims.
By Howard Blume, Los Angeles Times | http://lat.ms/10rOJsV
March 21, 2013, 11:05 p.m. :: Incidents of alleged child abuse by a teacher at a Wilmington elementary school were known beyond a principal who was removed for failing to report them, a parent and attorneys who represent alleged victims said Thursday.
The attorneys, who have filed claims in connection with the alleged abuse, said at a news conference that two high-ranking Los Angeles Unified School District officials were made aware of concerns about Robert Pimentel at George de la Torre Jr. Elementary School in 2009.
Pimentel, 57, is charged with sexual misconduct involving 12 children under the age of 14. Fourteen felony counts involve alleged abuse that occurred between September 2011 and mid-March 2012. Two additional counts date back to years earlier. He has pleaded not guilty and remains in jail in lieu of $12 million bail.
Shortly after Pimentel's January 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, and that was a major factor in her removal, Deasy said.
Both Pimentel and Hinojosa resigned as the district was preparing to fire them last year.
The employees under new scrutiny are Holly Priebe-Diaz, an intervention coordinator, and Linda Del Cueto, who currently oversees instructional programs in the San Fernando Valley. In 2009, Del Cueto was one of eight top regional administrators in L.A. Unified.
Attorneys said both were involved in mediation in 2009 to ease tensions at the school over numerous issues.
District officials confirmed Thursday that a mediation session took place in 2009, but they had nothing to say about who was present or whether abuse allegations were made, citing ongoing internal and police investigations. Priebe-Diaz and Del Cueto did not return telephone calls or emails seeking comment.
During the mediation, one parent alleged that Pimentel had touched her daughter inappropriately and that the principal had refused to follow up, said attorney Luis Carrillo.
That parent and another claim that either Priebe-Diaz or Del Cueto was taking notes at the time, Carrillo said.
"It's logical to assume those notes are turned into reports," said Carrillo, speaking outside district headquarters. Such reports should have gone "to the highest levels of the LAUSD." He added: "All the big shots in this building failed to protect the children and covered up child abuse when it occurred."
In a recent interview, Magdalena Gonzalez, the second parent cited by Carrillo, said the mediators heard specific allegations against Pimentel. They were told that Pimentel had pulled on a girl's bra strap and that he would playfully spank girls in class, Gonzalez said.
School employees are required by law to report allegations of sexual misconduct to police. They also are supposed to report such issues to their supervisors, according to school district policy. Allegations of failure to report sexual misconduct are part of the ongoing police investigation, according to the L.A. Police Department.
Carrillo represents three clients who have filed damage claims related to Pimentel. Another attorney with clients from De La Torre, John Manly, said he too is aware of witnesses who have corroborated Carrillo's claims about Priebe-Diaz and Del Cueto.
Both attorneys also have clients who are part of litigation over alleged abuse of students at Miramonte Elementary School in South L.A.'s Florence-Firestone neighborhood. They declined to participate in a recent $30-million settlement of 58 claims of lewd conduct involving former Miramonte teacher Mark Berndt.
Berndt has pleaded not guilty to 23 charges of lewd conduct and remains in jail in lieu of $23 million bail.
- Times staff writers Richard Winton and Adolfo Flores contributed to this report.
Lawyers, Parents Claim New Evidence Of An LAUSD Cover-Up
CBS Los Angeles http://cbsloc.al/ZRuoLh
March 21, 2013 2:18 PM :: LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — An attorney representing students who were molested say they have evidence the Los Angeles Unified School District were told about the sexual abuse, but did nothing about the allegations.
“The school district, John Deasy and all the big shots in this building failed to protect the children and covered up child abuse when it occurs,” attorney Luis Carrillo said. “We caught them with a smoking gun now.”
The allegations concern former fourth grade teacher Robert Pimentel, who was arrested in January on suspicion of abusing 20 children at George De La Torre Elementary School in Wilmington. The Los Angeles Police Department launched an investigation into Pimentel in March of 2012 when parents reported their children had been touched inappropriately by Pimentel.
According to Carrillo, in October 2009, at least one parent told district officials that Pimentel inappropriately touched her daughter while teaching at the school. The attorney says the district did not file a report or notify police of the incident.
“We can confirm that there was a parent meeting in 2009,” the district’s General Counsel David Holmquist said. “I can’t get into the particulars of that particular meeting now because of the ongoing criminal and liability investigations.”
Holmquist says all district files, including notes from that 2009 parent meeting, have been turned over to law enforcement investigators.
NBC Southern California - 21 March 2013
A parent made a complaint about sex abuse at George De La Torre Jr. Elementary School in Wilmington more than three years before a teacher was arrested, attorneys for student victims said. John Klemack reports for the NBC4 News at 11 p.m. on March 21, ...
89.3 KPCC (blog) - 21 March 2013
Robert Pimentel was a teacher at George De La Torre Jr. Elementary School. He is facing felony charges for allegedly touching children inappropriately. On the sidewalk just outside the Los Angeles Unified school district's 29 story headquarters, lawyer Luis ...
CBS Local - 21 March 2013
LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — An attorney representing students who were molested say they have evidence the Los Angeles Unified School District were told about the sexual abuse, but did nothing about the allegations. “The school district, John Deasy ...
smf: It must be noted that the original allegations made to principal Hinojosa – and the subsequent parent ”mediation” in October 2009 – occurred BEFORE the alleged sexual misconduct Pimentel is currently charged with. If true, this failure to report/cover-up/”mediation” enabled Pimentel to commit fourteen felony counts involving 12 children under the age of 14 - alleged abuse that occurred between September 2011 and mid-March 2012.
Going back to 2009: Under the mandatory reporter law principal Hinojosa was obligated to report the allegations against teacher Pimentel directly to law enforcement or child protective services immediately after the allegations were originally made.
The further allegations made here are disturbing and raise certain legal, moral and ethical questions – as well as questions about hearsay evidence, ”he said-she said” complaints made in parent meetings and the weight that should be given to sidewalk news conferences. It must be remembered that parents have alleged physical intimidation, bullying and assault by district officials at parent meetings to the Board of Education …and those charges have been unanswered.
All of that said: No one should mediate child abuse.
General counsel Holmquist said “We can confirm that there was a parent meeting in 2009, I can’t get into the particulars of that particular meeting now because of the ongoing criminal and liability investigations.” He said all district files, including notes from that 2009 parent meeting, have been turned over to law enforcement investigators.
….but that doesn’t answer whether the notes-from or the substance-of the 2009 meeting were discussed with Superintendent Cortines – Cortines being the “buck stops here” statutorily mandated reporter to the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing re inappropriate conduct with children in 2009.
The way it’s supposed to happen:
- Child/victim/parent/witness makes compliant to Mandatory Reporter (teacher/principal/school staff)
- Mandatory Reporter immediately calls either Police or Child Protective Services.
- Then Mandatory Reporter then makes official report to LAUSD superiors.
- That report makes it way through the chain of command to District Superintendent – who files report with Commission on Teacher Credentialing.
Apparently Principal Hinojosa also failed to report the abuse Pimentel is currently charged with between September 2011 and March 2012 …when Deasy was superintendent and Michael Romero Local Distinct 8 superintendent.