Torrance School Principal Charged With Being Slow in Reporting Suspected Abuse

Times Staff Writer

The principal of a Torrance elementary school was charged Wednesday with failing to notify police in a timely fashion that a fourth-grade teacher was suspected of molesting his pupils.

Carl Wallner, 58, principal of Adams Grammar School on 238th Street, is accused of violating a 1981 state law that requires child-care custodians to report suspected child abuse by telephone immediately and in writing within 36 hours.

The charges against Wallner, a San Pedro resident, stem from three complaints about teacher Xenophon John Tathekas, 50, dating back to last October. The teacher, who was charged March 3 with eight misdemeanor counts of child molestation involving the same number of girls, is scheduled to be arraigned Monday.

Deputy Dist. Atty. Sandra L. Buttitta said a mother approached Wallner last October and asked that her child be transferred out of Tathekas' class. When the principal refused her request, the mother's former husband came to the school and demanded the transfer, the prosecutor said.

Three Days

Buttitta said that when another mother complained about the teacher to Wallner in February, he told her that he would handle the matter himself rather than report it to authorities. It took three more days for him to call police, she said.

According to Buttitta, the complaints about Tathekas actually began two years ago, when two girls went to the principal and accused the teacher of improper touching. Although the statute of limitations for misdemeanors is one year, "we can consider (the earlier complaint) when we look at (Wallner's) state of mind," she said.

Torrance City Prosecutor J. D. Lord, who is handling the case against Tathekas, said the teacher is accused of fondling female students in the classroom and cafeteria. He said the charges against the teacher are misdemeanors because there was "no genital-to-genital contact."

Neither Wallner nor his attorney could be reached for comment Wednesday.

Publicized Case

In a highly publicized case last July, Stuart N. Bernstein, an administrator for the Los Angeles Unified School District, was convicted of failing to immediately report child molestation allegations against Terry E. Bartholome, a teacher at 68th Street School in South-Central Los Angeles.

Bernstein was sentenced to two years' probation and ordered to perform 400 hours of community service. Bartholome, who was convicted of 19 felony counts and 11 misdemeanors, was sentenced to 44 years.

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