Local News

Parents Say Principal Ignored Concerns About Teacher

WILMINGTON, Calif. (KTLA) — Parents at George de la Torre Elementary School in Wilmington are demanding answers amid a sex abuse scandal involving a former teacher.

Meantime, an attorney representing victims in the molestation case at Miramonte Elementary says he has evidence that the school harbored yet another alleged child abuser within its ranks.

Last week, former George de la Torre teacher Robert Pimentel, 57, was charged with molesting 12 students at the school. He has pleaded not guilty.

Prosecutors say there are eight additional child victims and one adult victim, a co-worker.

teacher-picA second parent from the school has now come forward to say that the former principal ignored allegations concerning Pimental.

Maria Zacapa, a mother of four, volunteers at the school, and all four of her children have gone there.

Zacapa says that three years ago, she notified the school’s principal, Irene Hinojosa, about questionable behavior she witnessed from Pimentel.

But to her surprise, she says, Hinojosa did nothing, and instead protected Pimentel in many cases.

“She had the power to put Mr. Pimentel behind bars before anything happened or take him out of the school,” she said in Spanish. “But no, nothing happened.”

Last week, another parent, Magdalena Gonzalez, said Hinojosa was made aware of several questionable alleged incidents involving Pimentel about three years ago.

According to Gonzalez, a girl told her parent that Pimentel had playfully spanked students.

Gonzalez also said she and other school volunteers saw Pimentel pull on a student’s bra strap during a fifth-grade graduation ceremony.

Gonzalez also alleged that Hinojosa was dismissive of their complaints and allowed Pimentel to have students in his classroom during recess and lunch despite their misgivings.

The current investigation began back in March when parents notified police about more recent allegations at the school.

LAUSD Superintendent John Deasy said that internal district records indicate that in 2002 and 2008 the principal was told of alleged misconduct, but failed to alert authorities.

Deasy was preparing to fire both Pimentel and Hinojosa when both resigned last March.

Police are now investigating whether Hinojosa should face charges for failing to report alleged abuse, as required by law.

On Monday, former state senator and current practicing attorney Martha Escutia, spoke at a news conference held on the steps of the school.

She said she is representing victims involved in school sex scandals including Miramonte Elementary, and now George de la Torre Elementary.

“I think we have seen, we can basically conclude that there’s a pattern of all these sexual abuse scandals cropping up everywhere in poor, minority neighborhoods,” Escutia said.

Escutia said she’s concerned about a cover-up within the district to protect teachers at the expense of student safety.

“I don’t know if LAUSD is moving people around rather than dismissing teachers,” she said.

“I just want an independent investigation as to what is happening at LAUSD. Who knows what? When did they know it?”

The LAUSD, the nation’s second largest school district, has been rocked in recent months by allegations of sexual misconduct involving teachers and students.

Former Miramonte Elementary School teacher Mark Berndt, 61, was arrested last January after photos surfaced that show students blindfolded and being fed cookies allegedly tainted with semen.

He has pleaded not guilty to 23 counts of lewd conduct and is awaiting trial.

The district is facing nearly 200 molestation and lewd conduct claims related to Berndt’s alleged wrongdoing.

And now, attorney Bryan Claypool, who represents the alleged Miramonte victims, says he has evidence that the school protected another teacher accused of misconduct.

According to Claypool, complaints were given for a period of up to 15 years. He was expected to give more details at a news conference on Tuesday.

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