By Barbara Jones and Christina Villacorte, Staff Writers, LA Daily News |http://bit.ly/12gSTE8
Attorney Luis Carrillo held a lawsuit Tuesday, May 7, 2013 at which he alleged that LAUSD officials had failed to report suspected sex-abuse by former teacher Robert Pimentel. District officials refute his claim. (Christina Villacorte/Staff Photographer)
To view the 2009 Island Elementary School confidential report, click here.
5/07/2013 01:06:19 PM PDT / Updated: 5/07/2013 07:23:06 PM PDT :: Los Angeles Unified officials failed in 2009 to report sex-abuse allegations against a Wilmington elementary school teacher who is now charged with molesting a dozen girls, an attorney claimed Tuesday - statements that were immediately disputed by the district.
During a press conference outside LAUSD headquarters, attorney Luis Carrillo said officials learned of alleged misconduct by teacher Robert Pimentel on Oct. 12, 2009, during a demonstration by angry parents outside of what is now De La Torre Elementary.
He based his comments on a confidential internal memo written by Holly Priebe-Diaz, a social worker with the district's Office of Human Relations, Diversity and Equity. The memo recaps interviews with parents who told her that Pimentel had been fondling female students. Parents also said they'd reported their suspicions to the school's principal, but she was "protecting" the teacher.
Carrillo said that no one at LAUSD reported the allegations to authorities - as required by state law - which allowed Pimentel to continue harming young girls.
"It's a tragedy that the LAUSD fails to protect children from child predators," said Carrillo, who represents three alleged victims in a lawsuit against the district. "And it's a bigger tragedy that the LAUSD covers up when instances of child sexual molestation occur."
But LAUSD officials said Priebe-Diaz notified the Los Angeles Police Department and the county child-welfare agency after that October meeting.
"We can say with certainty that any allegations of misconduct were promptly reported to the appropriate authorities," General Counsel David Holmquist said in a statement.
Carrillo questioned whether district officials were telling the truth and challenged them to release a redacted copy of Priebe-Dias' complaint to authorities. An LAUSD spokesman said the district has no such document.
Neither the LAPD nor the Department of Children and Family Services could immediately confirm the district's account or say whether the report was investigated.
According to the memo - which Carrillo said was leaked to him by someone outside the district - Priebe-Diaz intervened in a noisy demonstration of about 40 parents demanding the removal of the school's principal, Irene Hinojosa.
"Parents stated that there is a male teacher named Pimentel (Robert Pimentel) who has been known to touch female students inappropriately," she wrote. "The parents reported that he caresses the girls, gives them candy and photographs them without parent permission.
"Further, there was a parent 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, [Pimentel] rubbed a students back several times, stroking her bra strap. The parents reported this behavior to the principal without any response. The parents stated that Ms. Hinajosa [sic] is friends with this teacher from their last school and this is why she is protecting him."
District records show that Hinojosa and Pimentel worked together at Dominguez Elementary from 2001-02, and that he joined her at De La Torre in 2007.
In early 2012, parents complained to the LAPD about Pimentel, who was immediately pulled from his fourth-grade classroom at De La Torre. He was arrested in January on charges of molesting a dozen girls - 11 in 2011-12 and one from 2002-04.
Pimentel, 57, remains jailed on $12 million bail, pending a preliminary hearing scheduled for Thursday. He has pleaded not guilty.
Superintendent John Deasy has said that when the LAPD contacted the district about Pimentel in 2012, he determined that Hinojosa had known about misconduct allegations made in 2002 and 2008 but failed to report them.
He was in the process of firing both Hinojosa and Pimentel last year when they retired.
On Tuesday, Deasy said he received "extensive documentation" in February about Pimentel and immediately turned it over to the LAPD.
"It showed that at least one employee did report the allegations to both the LAPD and child welfare," in 2009, said Deasy, who refused to say what else was in the paperwork.
He also said the district also has retained the international law firm Sedgwick to investigate who else may have known about the allegations, and whether or not they reported them.
On April 19, Deasy placed four administrators on paid leave in connection with the case. They include Linda Del Cueto, the instructional chief for the San Fernando Valley, Adult Education Director Michael Romero, and Principals David Kooper and Valerie Moses.
In 2009, Del Cueto was superintendent for the local district that included Wilmington, and Romero and Moses worked in her office. Kooper was chief of staff to school board member Richard Vladovic, who represents the South Bay.
Whether the section about child abuse is complete is unknown and the sections on personnel matters and school safety and climate are totally absent. .
This whole matter and the underlying+ongoing crisis is about child abuse, personnel and school safety and climate. To presume to separate them into silos and assign them to different folk in the bureaucracy is bureaucratic hogwash …with some whitewash added for good measure.
Nobody wants to expose the children, parents or school district employees to any undue grief and/or untoward attention – and the right of the accused to a fair trial and the right of everyone to justice should not be compromised – but a little more transparency and a whole lot less spin control is called for here. And everywhere else.