Advertisement
YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

L.A. Unified officer alleges retaliation

Luis Barraza contends he was forced out of a school after reporting sex abuse allegation.

May 21, 2008|Richard Winton | Times Staff Writer

A Los Angeles Unified School District police officer has filed a claim with the district contending he was retaliated against for reporting allegations that a substitute teacher sexually abused a student.

Luis E. Barraza said his actions embarrassed two South East High School administrators who had failed to report the misconduct although required by law to inform authorities.

Earlier this month, the Los Angeles County district attorney's office criminally charged the two administrators with failing to report the alleged abuse. The teacher, who is related to another administrator at the school, also faces criminal charges for alleged abuse.

According to Barraza, he was reassigned to patrol at another part of the school district on the same day that L.A. Unified Supt. David Brewer allowed the two administrators to return to the South Gate campus, despite their pending criminal cases. Prosecutors criticized Brewer's action.

Barraza's attorney, Michael McGill, alleged in the claim that his client was given "freeway therapy." The claim is a precursor to a possible civil lawsuit.

"In short, Barraza was punished for reporting potential crimes," McGill wrote. "These actions are designed to deter other individuals, and officers, from speaking up and reporting criminal activities of high-ranking district employees."

Stephanie Brady, a spokeswoman for Senior Deputy Supt. Ramon C. Cortines, said Cortines was unaware that the officer had been transferred. He is also awaiting a report from Schools Police Chief Larry Manion describing the events leading to the information about the molestation charges and the removal of the two administrators, Brady said.

According to prosecutors, a student in October told South East High Principal Jesus Angulo and Assistant Principal Maria Sotomayor that she had had sex with a substitute teacher, Jesus Saenz.

During questioning by the administrators, which lasted two to three hours, the girl recanted, authorities said. The administrators then told a school police officer about the girl's allegation but didn't tell local police or child services, as required by law. State law specifically states that reporting such claims to a school police officer is not sufficient.

Barraza alleges in his claim that the student went to his office in February, upset that nothing had been done. She said she recanted earlier because "after speaking with the principal and assistant principal she became afraid to go forward with her allegations," according to Barraza's claim. The student alleged that the substitute teacher took her to a hotel where they had sex, Barraza contends.

Barraza said he documented the girl's allegations and forwarded the information to the South Gate Police Department. Saenz, Angulo and Sotomayor were arrested.

In May, eight days after their arrests, Angulo and Sotomayor were allowed to go back to work. The day they returned, Barraza alleges, he was transferred.

Brewer defended the decision to reinstate the administrators, saying it was needed to avoid disrupting the school. District officials have acknowledged that the teacher is related to another assistant principal at the school but say it did not influence how the incident was handled.

The South Gate case follows intense criticism of the district's handling of sexual misconduct allegations against former Assistant Principal Steve Rooney. In February 2007, the Los Angeles Police Department told district officials that Rooney was suspected of having sexual contact with a student at Foshay Learning Center in South L.A.

After putting Rooney in a desk job at a non-school site, district officials transferred him to Markham Middle School in Watts when prosecutors didn't file charges. He has now been charged with molesting two students there and the former Foshay student.

--

richard.winton@latimes.com

Advertisement
Los Angeles Times Articles
|
|
|