Second parent says principal ignored concerns about accused teacher


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A second parent at a George de la Torre Elementary School in Wilmington has come forward to say that the former principal ignored allegations that a teacher was touching students inappropriately. Maria Zacapa, whose child is now in the eighth grade, said her son told her four years ago that Robert Pimental had touched a girl in his fourth-grade class in a way that made Zacapa’s son feel uncomfortable.

“We went to the principal and she didn’t do anything to help us,” Zacapa said in Spanish. The parent added that Principal Irene Hinojosa did not allow Zacapa to volunteer at the school after her complaint.


Prosecutors last week charged former De la Torre teacher Pimentel, 57, with molesting 12 students at the school and said there are additional victims. Pimentel has pleaded not guilty.

Zacapa’s account, given in an interview with The Times, corroborated that of another parent, who is still a volunteer at the school.

Last week, Magdalena Gonzalez said Hinojosa had been made aware of several questionable alleged incidents involving Pimentel about three years ago.

In Gonzalez’s account, a girl told her parent that Pimentel had playfully spanked students. Gonzalez also said she and other volunteers saw Pimentel pull on a student’s bra strap during a fifth-grade graduation ceremony.

Gonzalez also alleged that Hinojosa was dismissive of their complaints and allowed Pimentel to have students in his classroom during recess and lunch despite their misgivings.

“We told her he was touching the girls,” Gonzalez said in Spanish.

The L.A. Police Department began investigating Pimentel last March, when they learned of more recent allegations at the school.

Internal district records indicate that in 2002 and 2008 the principal was told of alleged inappropriate touching but failed to alert law enforcement authorities, as required by law, said L.A. schools Supt. John Deasy.

Deasy was preparing to fire the teacher and the principal when both resigned last March.

The police said last week that they will launch an investigation into whether the principal should face charges for failing to report alleged abuse. She could not be reached for comment.


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Photo: Television crews wait outside George de la Torre Jr. Elementary in the Wilmington area of Los Angeles last week. Robert Pimentel, a former fourth-grade teacher there, has been arrested on suspicion of sexually abusing students at the school. Credit: Damian Dovarganes / Associated Press