School district officials knew of sexual misconduct allegations in 2009 against a teacher at a Wilmington school but failed to act, an attorney suing the Los Angeles Unified School District said Tuesday.
The teacher, Robert Pimentel, 57, was arrested in January of this year.
The accusations of inaction by L.A. Unified come from Luis Carrillo, who represents the families of three students from De La Torre Elementary School, as well as one former teacher, who also has accused Pimentel of improper conduct.
Carrillo bases his claim 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.
"Parents stated that there is a male teacher named Pimentel [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 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, [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.
Pimentel has pleaded not guilty and remains in jail in lieu of $12-million bail.
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.
L.A. Unified officials had no immediate comment Tuesday morning. They had not yet reviewed Carrillo's disclosures.
But 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.
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.