On April 2, a 29-year-old maintenance worker for the facility was accused by a teenage girl of cornering her in the secluded time-out room, police said. The facility reported the accusation to police. The man allegedly tried to kiss the girl and then raised her skirt and put his hand on her thigh before she ran away, said Torrance Police Sgt. Ed La Londe.
Dunlap called the incident troubling and said that no staff members had seen the maintenance man inside the girls' wing that early afternoon. The worker was fired immediately, although he later denied the allegations, Dunlap said. Police continue to investigate the case and have not referred it to prosecutors.
Star View also imposed an even higher level of scrutiny immediately after the incident, Dunlap said. In addition to the other counselors and nurses, a roving staff member now patrols halls and checks rooms, looking for problems.
Policies Still Being Amended
Even that improvement, though, had to be modified after the latest crisis, which came just last Sunday. That is when the 15-year-old girl allegedly forced her younger roommate to stimulate her sexually--an incident that took place between the routine, 15-minute sweeps by the roving staff member, Dunlap said.
The girl was transferred to Los Padrinos Juvenile Hall and faces lewd conduct and oral copulation charges, police said.
In the last few days, the employee has continued the patrols, but on a sporadic schedule that is supposed to be more difficult for residents to outsmart.
"It's part of the evolution of the program," Dunlap said. "This sort of acting out is not something we were dealing with before, but many of the kids are dealing with these [sexual] issues in therapy and then they may act on it more. It's all the more reason to have constant surveillance of the children."
Before the recent incidents, Star View was finally beginning to make progress, said Robert Stevenson, an attorney whose firm represents several youths at the home. But he urged continued improvements, including the quick hiring of a special education expert to head the on-site school, which recently lost its principal.
"In the last six weeks things had gotten much better," Stevenson said. "They are making a huge effort to make things better. . . . But we can't accept mediocrity for these kids.
"There are a lot of lost souls out there, but some of them are salvageable."