A San Fernando Valley teaching assistant who worked with special education students has been charged with sexually abusing two boys over a six-year period, the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office announced Tuesday.
Joaquin Diaz, 44, was charged Friday with two counts of continuous sexual abuse and one count of kidnapping for child molesting, the district attorney’s office said in a statement.
Diaz worked for Los Angeles Unified School District schools when the crimes occurred, authorities said. However, the contact may have occurred while Diaz was acting as a private tutor outside of his employment with LAUSD, authorities said.
He has pleaded not guilty and is scheduled to appear in court on June 28. If convicted, Diaz faces up to multiple life terms in state prison.
Police arrested Diaz, also known as Joaquin Diaz-Orgaz, at his Woodland Hills home on May 25, said Det. Stefanie Diaz of the Los Angeles Police Department’s Devonshire Station, which is handling the investigation.
Diaz worked for numerous LAUSD schools, the most recent being Sunny Brae Elementary in Winnetka, where he had worked since December 2011, Det. Diaz said.
The suspect also is known to have worked at Valley View Elementary in the Hollywood Hills, Portola Middle School in Tarzana and Woodland Hills Academy, police said. He also did private tutoring.
Det. Diaz said she could not comment on the specifics of the allegations because the victims were minors. She said the alleged abuse was first reported to Devonshire investigators in March and that they learned about the second victim after Diaz’s arrest.
“Any parent would never want this to happen to their child, never,” Det. Diaz said. “I can’t comment on how they feel, but clearly he has to face the consequences of his actions. He was in a position of trust. These children trusted him, and their families trusted him.”
The Los Angeles Unified School District said in a statement that it was cooperating with police.
“L.A. Unified has worked diligently to provide a secure environment for all students to learn and succeed,” the district said. “However, a small number of individuals have acted in gross violation of the district’s commitment to keep our children safe.”
The nation’s second-largest school system has been plagued in recent years by a series of cases in which officials missed indications of teacher misconduct, and, in some instances, continued to employ teachers who were under a cloud, or ignored or overlooked direct complaints.
Payouts to parents and attorneys have surpassed $300 million in the last four years.
In its statement Tuesday, the school district said it will convene an advisory committee comprised of district officials, child protection experts, parents and community partners “to examine current practices for safeguarding students and to recommend additional strategies, as needed.”
According to the school district, it has improved training for recognizing and reporting abuse, created a Student Safety Investigative Team made up of law enforcement veterans and developed a “comprehensive data warehouse that allows the district to better track and document misconduct allegations against employees.”
Devonshire police said they are reaching out to the public to find out if there are additional alleged victims or more information about Diaz.
Anyone with information about Diaz or other potential victims is encouraged to call Devonshire detectives at (818) 832-0609.
Diaz remained in custody Tuesday in lieu of $3-million bail.
12:48 p.m.: This story was updated with additional information from the Los Angeles Unified School District.