Arrest led to no charges against teacher named in molestation suit
A former El Sereno Elementary School teacher accused of molesting three former students was arrested on suspicion of sexual battery and lewd acts on children in 2010, but prosecutors didn’t file charges because of a lack of evidence, authorities said Thursday.
Three former students of the teacher, Armando Gonzalez, sued the Los Angeles Unified School District this week, charging that he molested them between 2008 and 2010.
It was unclear whether the former students in the 2010 case are the same as those who are now suing the school district.
Gonzalez, 45, was arrested in 2010 on charges of sexual battery, child annoyance and lewd acts. The charges stemmed from six incidents involving five children, said Drake Madison, a Los Angeles Police Department spokesman.
The Los Angeles district attorney’s office declined to file charges against the teacher twice, said Jane Robison, a spokeswoman for the office.
After his arrest in 2010, Robison said, prosecutors did not file charges, citing insufficient evidence. Prosecutors again reviewed a different allegation against the teacher of lewd acts upon a child and declined to file charges in January of this year, she said. Prosecutors dropped the case because the victim declined to cooperate and talk to prosecutors, Robison said.
In a statement, the Los Angeles Unified School District said officials alerted law enforcement after learning of allegations of sexual misconduct in March 2010 and immediately removed Gonzalez from the classroom.
“Our hearts go out to the victims in this matter,” said Sean Rossall, a district spokesman. “Our top priority is that students have a safe learning environment in which to thrive.”
The district moved to fire the teacher in 2012 but he contested the action. The teacher resigned last week without receiving a settlement.
Gonzalez could not be reached for comment.
One of the former students testified at Gonzalez’s dismissal hearings, said attorney Luis Carrillo, who represents them.
The students did not report the alleged wrongdoing until recently. The girls “discovered that the psychological injury, illness and suffering” they subsequently experienced were “caused by the childhood sexual harassment, molestation and abuse,” stated the suit filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court.
The suit charges that the district had warning, dating to 2007, of Gonzalez’s unfitness to teach based on episodes of touching, fondling and kissing girls on the lips. The period of abuse recounted in the lawsuit spans 2008 through 2010.
The lawsuit also alleges that there are as many as 15 victims, a claim that Carrillo said was based on information provided to one of his clients by a school district employee.
At a news conference in front of school district headquarters on Thursday, Carrillo said the district was too slow to act and failed to protect students.
“The good news is the school district worked to remove him from the classroom,” he said. “The bad news is they waited five years too long to remove him from the classroom — again, they fell asleep.”
Carrillo is one of several attorneys involved in litigation over allegations of lewd conduct by former Miramonte Elementary teacher Mark Berndt.
L.A. Unified has settled 63 student claims in connection with that case; 68 are still being litigated, including many of Carrillo’s cases. Parents also have claimed damages related to Miramonte.
Berndt, 62, is awaiting trial. He has pleaded not guilty and remains in custody in lieu of $23 million bail.
Times staff writer Richard Winton contributed to this report.
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