Did LAUSD Know About Allegedly Abusive Teacher as Early as 2009?

Three years before Los Angeles Unified School District teacher Robert Pimentel was arrested for inappropriate contact with students, district officials had a number of complaints from parents about his behavior. A newly released internal document shows that parents complained about Pimentel as early as 2009, yet there is no indication that district officials moved to investigate the claims.

LAUSD Superintendent John Deasy has promised a full investigation and four district administrators have been placed on leave pending its outcome.

The memo reads that parents complained about Pimentel inappropriately touching and caressing female students, offering them candy and photographing them without permission. The document was released by attorney Lois Carrillo, who is suing the district on behalf of more than a dozen clients alleging sexual misconduct by LAUSD teachers at a number of schools.

Pimentel, who prior to his arrest in January was teaching at De La Torre Elementary School in Wilmington, has pleaded not guilty to charges that he inappropriately touched 12 children under the age of 14. He is facing 14 felony counts covering the 2011-12 academic year and two more from years prior.

Carrillo said the document came from sources outside the school system. L.A. Unified, he alleged, has refused to provide materials relevant to the case. Deasy had no comment on the document itself, which has the word “confidential” typed across the top. Its letterhead is the “Office of Human Relations, Diversity and Equity” within “School Operations.”

The superintendent said he learned in detail about prior allegations against Pimentel in the weeks after the teacher’s arrest. Deasy previously had singled out former De La Torre Principal Irene L. Hinojosa for apparently not reporting allegations against Pimentel in 2002 and 2008.

In a tense mediated meeting between Deasy and district parents, the Superintendent said that in 2009, complaints about Pimentel reached senior administrator levels at the LAUSD for the first time. He added that he personally turned over documents relating to these complaints to the Los Angeles Police Department in February and that there’s an ongoing investigation into everyone who is employed by the district who was aware of the allegations.

The administrators on leave are: Linda Del Cueto, who was most recently the senior instructional leader 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 document states that “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 student’s back several times, stroking her bra strap. The parents reported this behavior to the principal without any response. The parents stated that [Hinojosa] is friends with this teacher from their last school and this is why she is protecting him.”