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Teacher Must Register as Sex Offender : Court: Palmdale instructor is convicted of three misdemeanor counts of child molesting and battery.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

A Palmdale teacher who pleaded no contest to misdemeanor child molestation charges must perform community service, register as a sex offender, obtain counseling and serve three years probation, authorities said.

David Allen Montana, a former social studies teacher at Palmdale Learning Plaza, is also forbidden to teach children during his probation period under a plea agreement approved Friday in Antelope Municipal Court.

Montana was accused of giving shoulder massages to sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade female students, looking down their blouses and making suggestive comments. He was charged with 15 misdemeanor counts of child molesting and battery concerning seven girls and a school secretary.

Under the agreement, Montana, 42, is convicted of three counts, but will not be jailed unless he violates his probation.

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On Monday, a prosecutor described the plea as a fair resolution to the case. But Montana’s attorney, David M. Wallin, said his client agreed to it only because a trial could have led to a jail sentence. Wallin also said that standing trial for two or three weeks could have cost Montana his new job in another community, even if he was not convicted.

Wallin declined to say where Montana is working now or what type of work he does, but said it does not involve teaching youngsters.

“Mr. Montana believes strongly in his innocence,” the defense attorney said. “He does not believe he did anything wrong . . . If he touched any children on the shoulder, it was not for any sexual intent. It’s because he’s a ‘touchy’ guy.”

Wallin said Montana is a “Christian gentleman,” who may have told some students who are Jehovah’s Witnesses that they were part of a cult. “Those students went to their parents, and everyone started fuming,” the attorney asserted. “That’s what we believe lit the fuse to most of this.”

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But according to court records, Montana’s religious views were only one of many concerns appearing on a petition signed last year by dozens of Palmdale Learning Plaza students. That document complained that Montana made comments such as, “You have sexy legs” and “You look foxy today” to students.

It also stated: “We do not like him massaging our shoulders or staring at our anatomy.”

The petition caused some parents to complain to Palmdale School District officials and to the Sheriff’s Department. According to court documents, several female students told investigators that Montana had made them feel uncomfortable by rubbing their shoulders and peering down their blouses.

School district officials placed Montana on administrative leave May 11, and he resigned in the fall, Supt. Nancy K. Smith said.

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Misdemeanor charges, sometimes called “child annoyance,” were filed in July because the incidents involved “something less than skin-to-skin contact, which would be a felony,” said John K. Spillane, supervising deputy district attorney in Lancaster.

Spillane said a single incident might not have warranted a criminal charge, but “taken as a whole, it raised it to the level of misdemeanor child annoyance.”

Under the terms of his probation, Montana must perform 200 hours of community service and avoid contact with minors, except in the presence of a responsible adult. He must stay away from his victims and their families and pay restitution if the children require private counseling, Spillane said.

“Based on the nature of these types of incidents, I’m satisfied to keep him out of teaching junior high and high school and to make sure he receives some kind of counseling,” the prosecutor said.

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