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Principal, 3 Teachers Face Misdemeanor Abuse Charges

November 17, 1994|SHAWN HUBLER

The principal and three former and current teachers at a small private school in South Pasadena are expected to surrender this week to face misdemeanor charges that they physically abused their pupils, officials said Wednesday.

Judith Thayer, the principal and owner of the 130-student Stancliff School, was charged Monday with three counts of misdemeanor child abuse and a single count of failure to report child abuse, said Deputy Dist. Atty. Scott Gordon.

Her son, Andrew, 23, and Scott Kelly, 21, former gym teachers at the school, and JoAnne Lewis, 46, who still teaches at Stancliff, also were charged.

The allegations capped an investigation that began 11 months ago after parents complained about disciplinary measures at the school, which offers classes from kindergarten through eighth grade.

Parents complained that some discipline was unnecessarily harsh, and that Andrew Thayer--also the school's football coach--once had placed a football player in a trash dumpster and had put another boy's feet and lower legs in an ice machine.

Judith Thayer said then that the school occasionally punished unruly children by making them run laps or do pushups, but had not used corporal punishment for about eight years. The incidents involving her son, she said, were meant in fun--one after a football victory and another on a hot summer day.

South Pasadena Police Chief Thomas E. Mahoney said that neither of those two incidents resulted in the charges filed this week. However, he said, during the course of the investigation, police unearthed other complaints from parents that led to the misdemeanor filings.

Neither Mahoney nor Gordon would detail the incidents, but Mahoney said that in at least two cases children were injured--although not seriously enough to require hospitalization.

According to court documents, the alleged abuses occurred between last November and January, and involved six children. Two 7-year-olds and an 8-year-old have accused Judith Thayer and Joanne Lewis of abusing them. A 14-year-old girl and a 13-year-old boy have alleged that Andrew Thayer abused them and a 14-year-old boy charges that Judith Thayer and Kelly abused him.

Mahoney stressed that the allegations are "absolutely not" sexual in nature. "Most of it centers around disciplinary procedures at the school," the police chief said, adding that the actions involved were deemed by authorities to have been "unusual and inappropriate for a school setting."

Frank Salz, the school's attorney, could not be reached for comment.

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