The San Diego County district attorney’s office has filed a felony complaint against a San Diego junior high school teacher, alleging that he repeatedly molested at least nine female students.
John Placido Flores, 37, is scheduled to be arraigned Friday in Superior Court on nine counts of child molesting, one count of “lewd and lascivious conduct” with a child under the age of 14, and one count of sexual battery.
The complaint alleges that Flores, a math and science teacher at John J. Montgomery Junior High School in Linda Vista, repeatedly molested at least three of the students, ages 12 to 14, between Sept. 1 and March 21, when he was relieved of his teaching duties.
The students claimed that the molesting occurred in the classroom, usually during breaks or after school, but occasionally when other students were present, according to Detective Mark Sanders of the San Diego Police Department’s child abuse division.
Most of the complaints allege that Flores fondled students through their clothing, Sanders said. However, the felony complaint includes charges of a sexual act with a student and restraining a student while molesting her.
School authorities were first notified about the complaints in mid-March, after a group of students told another teacher that Flores had been molesting them, Sanders said. Flores was immediately reassigned to a non-teaching position while police and district security officers investigated the complaints.
Sanders said he was not surprised that the students waited six months before reporting the alleged behavior, adding that embarrassment and confusion about the incidents could have prevented the students from telling authorities earlier.
“A lot of these girls, being of such a young age, they just don’t understand,” Sanders said. “It took a long time for it to click in. They were confused. They didn’t know if it was wrong or what they could do about it . . . Some of these things can go totally unnoticed in the classroom, and that’s why it took so long.”
Neither Montgomery Principal Ruby Cremaschi nor security officer Jim Pilling would comment on the matter, referring all questions to the San Diego Unified School District’s legal office. While he refused to comment specifically about the case, Jose Gonzales, the school district’s assistant general counsel, confirmed that Flores had been reassigned.
“Whenever allegations of this type are made, to protect both the student and the teacher, the teacher must be removed from the classroom,” Gonzales said.
Flores remained at his new assignment for about six weeks during the investigation, Sanders said. Flores was suspended without pay soon after formal charges were filed May 3, Gonzales said.
“State law requires that whenever certain sex charges are brought against a teacher, we are required to suspend the teacher,” Gonzales said.
If convicted of the charges, Flores would automatically be dismissed, according to Tina Dyer, the district’s general counsel. She added that a conviction would also lead the state to consider revoking his credentials. If acquitted, Flores would be able to return to teaching, Dyer said.