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SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA / A news summary | The Local Review

Teacher Arrested in School Stripping Incident

May 14, 1999

LOS ANGELES — A substitute teacher accused of stripping in front of his fourth-grade students was arrested Thursday and booked on suspicion of a lewd act against a child, police said.

Police arrested Wendell Smith, 46, at his home in Highland Park about 3 p.m. without incident, according to LAPD Cmdr. David Kalish.

Detectives interviewed the 24 students in Smith's class at El Sereno Elementary School after they reported to school officials Wednesday that the teacher had removed his clothing in front of them.

Some students said Smith asked some female students to touch his private parts, but police would not confirm that report.

Kalish said that physical evidence in the classroom as well as interviews with students led investigators to seek Smith's arrest on criminal charges. He was being questioned by detectives late Thursday.

Authorities said none of the children in the class were physically injured, but Kalish noted that "a couple of the children were very, very traumatized."

School officials said Smith was an elementary school substitute teacher for the Los Angeles Unified School District for two years. Prior to that, he had served as an adult education teacher for the district.

"There was nothing adverse in his records whatsoever," said district spokesman Shel Erlich.

He added that Smith would be terminated immediately.

School officials met with parents Thursday morning to address their concerns and had crisis counselors on hand to speak with them and the students, Erlich said.

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