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February 05, 2012

The L.A. school sex scandals: Why are we hearing only now?

“Distraught doesn’t even begin to describe it.” Angel Zobel-Rodriguez, a GreatSchool’s community moderator and mother of two (and education blogger) in Los Angeles, is talking about – and echoing – the sentiments of parents across the country. They are trying to make sense of the cases of child abuse – at the hands of teachers – that have recently come to light.

In every conversation I’ve had with parents about these crimes against children in schools, committed by educators who are entrusted with their well-being, there’s a piece of the puzzle that none of us can figure out: Why are we learning about this only now?

The teacher at Miramonte Elementary, who is accused of committing lewd acts on children in the classroom, had been working at the school for 30 years. In 1994, a student had reported that he’d touched her inappropriately, but no charges were ever pressed. (A second teacher at Miramonte Elementary also has been arrested on charges of committing lewd acts.) Another long-time educator who taught music at a prestigious music school in Los Angeles is accused of having sex with students.

More details will surface about these cases in the coming weeks, helping parents make more sense of them and understand why we're hearing only now. But it seems that for the most part a veil of silence covered these crimes. The Miramonte Elementary schoolteacher had taken dozens of photos of children in the classroom, some blindfolded with tape covering their mouths. You’d think that over the years at least one child would come home, and in response to their parents’ predictable question, “What did you do at school today?” instead of the usual, “Nothing,” at least one would say, “My teacher made me do this weird thing...”

We are learning that some did. According to the LA Times, one second grader came home from Miramonte Elementary in 2008 and showed her parents two photos: one shows her with two others girls against a wall; in the second, she is her biting down on a small cookie with a shiny, unidentified substance on top of it. Her parents were disturbed enough to show the photos to the principal, who dismissed them as part of a class project. Other news stories have reported that over the years, other complaints about the same teacher were brought by parents to the administration. Nothing was done. The teachers kept teaching.

Parents teach their children to respect teachers with the implicit message, “Listen to the teacher and do as you are told.” By presenting a united front with the teacher, parents send an important message to their child that the teacher is in charge and knows best.

What remains for parents to grapple with, now that we have these recent atrocities fresh in our minds, is what to tell our kids when we send them off to school every day. Yes, we want them to respect the teacher, especially since the vast majority of hard-working and exemplary teachers deserve their respect.

But we also want our children to be able to recognize when something an adult does is amiss, frightening, and crosses the line into abuse. We want them to tell us the details – the good, bad, and horrific – about what happened at school that day. We want them to know that what they say matters and that we are listening, very carefully. 

This blog post was updated February 12, 2012.

Comments

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This wouldn't be a problem is parents worked harder at communicating with their teachers, and teachers thought more of the parental concern for their children.

Having said that, and coming from a teacher's perspective, teachers owe better communication to parents than just report cards; they must report any abnormal behavior as well as bad (or good) grades.

Teachers who work with individual students need to have a literal "open door" policy; never meet with students behind closed doors. High school teachers must be especially mindful of this, and not only require "open door" meetings, but always group, never individual meetings, if possible.

It comes down to this;
Parents, if you haven't spoken to all of your children's teachers at least once this year; shame on you; you're letting your kids down.
Teachers; if you've met with a student one-on-one behind closed doors,you're not being professional, and deserve the negative attention and reprimands you get.

Teachers who work with individual students need to have a literal "open door" policy; never meet with students behind closed doors. High school teachers must be especially mindful of this, and not only require "open door" meetings, but always group, never individual meetings, if possible.

Why are there countless typos & grammatical errors in this horrific story? Doesn't anyone proofread anymore?!
Shame on you.
Yes, this seems petty, considering the gravity of the subject matter, I realize, but when I'm so distracted by this writer's misuse of language (your = you're?!), that's a poor reflection on GreatSchools.

Miramonte Elementary for years have hid the truth from parents and the community. For years parents have complained about the teachers and aids and the school refused to listen. The school told parents and students to stop making up stories. Why on earth will numerous children and parents make "false accusations"?

The sad thing is that many individuals were ignored and since many are of poor and of illegal status the school decide to believe the staff. Also most media outlets have not provided its viewers with the whole story. I have read numerous articles to make the connections that Mitamonte had problems since the 1980s with a different teacher.
The link is http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-banks-20120210,0,3984975,full.column
If anyone wants to read further into it.

Mr. Berndt was accused in the 1990s and the D. A. did not have enough evidence to prosecute him. Therefore, how many more victims has this man abused?

A teacher's aid Mr. "Guevara, is serving a 15-year sentence in state prison after being convicted in 2004 of sexually abusing three kindergarten girls at Miramonte."

If you want to read further on this article the link is
http://www.usatoday.com/news/education/story/2012-02-09/miramonte-school-sex-abuse-case/53034154/1

And in 2009 another fourth grade teacher's aid wrote love letters to a student. The mother complained to the school and the sheriffs office. LAUSD claims to have fired her for misconduct with a student.

Yet Ms Luisjuan moved to Moreno Valley and was a volunteer at Bear Valley school. The community had no idea of Ms. Luisjuan's past until various news outlets in Los Angeles began to investigate. 

The links to these articles and videos are 

http://www.latimes.com/videogallery/67957428/News/VIDEO-Miramonte-Teacher-s-Aide-Accused-Of-Sending-Love-Letters-To-4th-Grader-Brandi-Hitt-reports

http://losangeles.cbslocal.com/2012/02/08/report-miramonte-teachers-aide-wrote-love-letters-to-4th-grade-student/#comments

And now there are more schools that are having problems with teachers of abusing their students. 

Please note that I am obtaining all this information from articles and videos. I encourage all of you to look into them. As a viewer of CNN, my local news such as CBS, ABC, KCAl, Fox News LA and even (Spanish news) Univision have not provided me with all of this in one sitdown.

@Heidi: Thank you for bringing this to my attention. We don't have copy editors and typically write our blogs quickly. But that's no excuse for typos, especially for an education site. This was a good reminder to take an extra few minutes - before pressing "Send" - to read through my blog more carefully.

I'm sorry, but no child should ever be taught to obey an adult just because they are an adult. They should be taught to respectfully question everything, not be little sheep. Challenge everything is a little different, but they should be asking themselves and their parents about things they are taught and made to do.

In every conversation I’ve had with parents about these crimes against children in schools, committed by educators who are entrusted with their well-being, there’s a piece of the puzzle that none of us can figure out: Why are we learning about this only now?

The comments to this entry are closed.

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