Educator arrested in 4th abuse case

Times Staff Writer

A former assistant principal in the Los Angeles Unified School District already facing charges of molesting three students was arrested again Thursday on charges of molesting a fourth, authorities said.

In the latest complaint, Steve Thomas Rooney, 39, faces five felony charges that he molested a 14-year-old student between June 2004 and June 2006. The student attended Foshay Learning Center at the time of the alleged molestation, authorities said. Rooney once worked there as a teacher.

The charges were the latest against Rooney, who was arrested earlier this year on felony counts of molesting three female students at South Los Angeles schools.

In the previous case, two students -- ages 13 and 14 -- attended Markham Middle School at the time of the alleged crimes. Rooney worked as an assistant principal there. A third student attended Foshay and was 15 when Rooney allegedly began having sex with her, authorities said.

Rooney, who remains free on bail, has pleaded not guilty in the previous case. His attorney could not be reached for comment Thursday.


Because Rooney has already been ordered to stand trial on the previous charges, the new allegations have been filed as a separate case against him that will follow its own legal trajectory, according to a news release from the district attorney’s office. Rooney was expected to post $100,000 bail in the latest case, according to the release.

Earlier in the year, the Rooney saga prompted outrage among parents angered that he had been assigned to Markham after police had alerted school officials that they suspected Rooney of having sex with a minor. The case also caused the school district to do its own internal investigation of how Rooney was treated.

Rooney had gone from teaching at Foshay to becoming an assistant principal at Fremont High School in September 2006. Both schools are in South Los Angeles.

In 2007, the Los Angeles Police Department investigated him on a weapons charge and on suspicion of statutory rape of a 17-year old girl, a student at Foshay. At some point, the girl turned 18 and declined to cooperate with prosecutors, according to the police. No rape charges were filed, and the weapons charge was dropped.

During that investigation, Rooney was transferred from Fremont to a district office job where he had no contact with students.

After the police ended their investigation, Rooney was moved to Markham as an assistant principal, even though police had alerted the district that they suspected Rooney had had sex with a minor. The move was also an apparent violation of school policy, which requires the district to conduct its own investigation even if police close the case without filing charges.

While at Markham, Rooney was arrested in March and charged with five counts of forcible lewd acts on a child stemming from allegations that he sexually assaulted the 13-year-old female Markham student. In April, he was charged with molesting the 14-year-old girl, who was also at Markham student.

At that time, authorities decided they had enough evidence to lodge sex-related charges against him in connection with the Foshay student, whom they believed in 2007 he was having sex with. He is alleged to have had sex with her between November 2005 and November 2006. That former student has since testified at a court hearing about him.