Two previous allegations against teacher accused of abusing 20 kids
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A former teacher arrested on sexual abuse allegations involving 20 children was previously alleged to have inappropriately touched students as early as 2002, but the accusations went unreported, a top LAUSD official said Thursday.
Robert Pimentel, 57, a former teacher at George de la Torre Elementary School in Wilmington, was arrested Wednesday on suspicion of committing lewd acts and sexually abusing 20 children and one adult, law enforcement authorities said.
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The current charges allege sexual abuse and lewd acts on children from September 2011 to March 2012. Authorities said the teacher is suspected of inappropriately touching children under and over their clothing.
L.A. schools Supt. John Deasy said Thursday that allegations against Pimentel also arose in 2002 and 2008, but the district has no record that the allegations went beyond the schools where Pimental worked at the time.
School employees are legally required to report allegations of sexual misconduct to police. They also are supposed to report such issues to their supervisors, according to Los Angeles Unified School District policies.
The teacher’s file “contained notations of suspected misconduct along the lines of what he was later charged with, which was inappropriate touching of a student,” Deasy said. “I don’t know the specific nature of the touching.”
In both previous instances, the principal in charge was Irene Hinojosa. The 2002 allegation occurred at Dominguez Elementary. The 2008 alleged incident was at George de la Torre Elementary.
After the school district learned last March of the allegations, Hinojosa and Pimentel were immediately removed from their positions.
“There was an allegation that was not properly reported,” Deasy said. “That was enough for me” to take action against the principal.
Hinojosa and Pimentel resigned on March 27 before the proceedings to fire them could be completed, Deasy said.
LAUSD, the nation’s second-largest school district, has been rocked in the last year by allegations of sexual misconduct. In January 2012, a teacher at Miramonte Elementary School was arrested amid allegations that he spoon-fed semen to students in a classroom and took dozens of photos, including some showing students blindfolded and being fed allegedly tainted cookies.
Detectives launched an investigation of Pimentel after children told their parents they had been abused and the parents alerted officers at the LAPD’s Harbor Division.
Of the 20 children allegedly abused, 19 were students at the school, according to LAPD Capt. Fabian Lizarraga. He said detectives came across the 20th child as they gathered evidence.
Deasy told The Times that his recollection was that the adult was a co-worker of Pimentel.
Pimentel, who lives in Newport Beach, had been a teacher with the district since 1974, police said. He was taken into custody shortly after noon Wednesday and was being held on $12-million bail. He is expected to appear in court Thursday.
In the Miramonte Elementary case, former teacher Mark Berndt, 62, is charged with 23 counts of lewd conduct and is awaiting trial. He has pleaded not guilty.
In a separate case, a jury recently awarded $6.9 million to a 14-year-old boy who was molested while he was in fifth grade at Queen Anne Place Elementary School in the Mid-Wilshire area. The teacher in that incident pleaded no contest to two counts of a lewd act on a child and to continuous sexual abuse of a child younger than 14. He is serving a 16-year prison sentence.
--Howard Blume and Richard Winton