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California Briefing / Los Angeles

Eight-year term in school abuse case

September 16, 2009|Richard Winton

A former Los Angeles Unified School District assistant principal was sentenced to eight years in prison Tuesday for sexually abusing four minors.

Steve Thomas Rooney pleaded no contest last month to molesting three teenage girls and having unlawful sex with a fourth minor. He sat handcuffed in orange jail clothing with his head down, shaking as the sentence was handed down. Some of his female victims sat a few yards away.

"He should pay for everything he has done to our families," a father of one of the victim told Judge Marcelita V. Haynes before sentencing. "He has ruined my daughter's life and other girls.' "

The 40-year-old was convicted of having sex with a Foshay Learning Center student when she was 15 to 17 and molesting a second girl at the school before being transferred to Markham Middle School in Watts, where he molested two more girls. The girls ranged from 13 to 15 years in age.

The case highlighted serious deficiencies in how the school district handled problem employees and led to several changes to better protect children.

Authorities said L.A. Unified officials were aware that Rooney had been accused of having sex with the Foshay student but nonetheless transferred him to another campus, where he victimized the other girls.

-- Richard Winton

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