By Larry Altman
A male teacher at a Wilmington elementary school is under investigation for alleged sexual misconduct with students, police said Monday.
The allegations prompted Los Angeles Unified School District officials to remove the teacher Friday from his classroom at George de la Torre Jr. Elementary School. In addition, Principal Irene Hinojosa has been removed from her post.
“It’s only an allegation at this time,” LAUSD spokeswoman Monica Carazo said. “It’s an active investigation.”
The teacher was not immediately arrested. He has not been identified and his grade level has not been disclosed. The reason for putting Hinojosa on leave also was not disclosed.
Los Angeles police Capt. William Hayes said police opened the investigation at 11 p.m. Thursday, when parents of five families appeared at the Harbor Division station to make sexual battery allegations against the teacher. Sexual battery involves inappropriate touching.
“It appears that in all of the cases that it involves inappropriate touching on the outer portions of the clothing,” Los Angeles police Deputy Chief Patrick Gannon said. “One child is claiming skin-to-skin. What part of the body was touched, I’m not sure.
Hayes said detectives from the LAPD’s abused child unit were brought in to handle the investigation.
So far, police believe the case involves 10 children from the five families. The children are current students at the school on Island Avenue.
The investigation has the potential, however, to grow to include more victims, police said.
The investigation also includes an unidentified adult
who said she was touched inappropriately.
Investigators planned to talk to the current students, as well as former students, teachers and other potential witnesses, Hayes said.
The inquiry could take at least a couple weeks, Hayes said.
“I know (detectives) were going to go over to one of the middle schools and make sure they didn’t have victims that were there before and progressed on in the system,” Hayes said.
Before she was placed on leave, Hinojosa sent a letter home with students Friday. District and police officials held meetings with parents Friday, Saturday and Monday.
“Our school and the Los Angeles Unified School District take allegations very seriously and fully cooperate with the investigative agencies,” Hinojosa said in her letter. “I want to reassure parents and guardians that the school and the district take every precaution to ensure the safety of students and staff at our school.”
On Monday, retired Principal Zan Colazas, who worked previously at Fries Avenue and Hawaiian Avenue elementaries in Wilmington, was brought in to take over the campus. He has 40 years of experience as a principal.
Carazo said district officials were working to keep parents aware of what was happening.
“We just want to inform the parents every step of the way,” Carazo said. “We are offering counselors at the school for as long as they need it.”
Parents were told how to talk to their children about the allegations, she said.
Hayes said it was unclear why the families came forward together on Thursday night, but suggested recent sexual assault allegations against several other LAUSD teachers might have prompted them to file their report.
Diana Gonzales said she attended the meeting Monday because her grandchildren attend the school and because a cousin was upset that her granddaughter was questioned without her knowledge.
“She said next time she wanted to be informed,” Gonzales said.
Police and school officials provided parents some information about what happened, but little about the teacher, who was believed to have a fourth-grade class.
Gonzales said she was concerned about “what were they doing, how they were handling the investigation” and why an arrest had not been made.
Source : contracostatimes