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Parents learn belatedly of Pacoima teacher's arrest

L.A. Unified officials scramble to explain why parents were not told of the October arrest of a third-grade teacher at Telfair Elementary for alleged sexual abuse.

February 11, 2012|By Rick Rojas and Howard Blume, Los Angeles Times

Los Angeles school officials were scrambling Friday to explain why parents were never notified about the October arrest of a teacher at Telfair Elementary School in Pacoima for alleged child sexual abuse.

Paul Chapel, a third-grade teacher who has been suspended without pay, is charged with 15 counts of lewd acts and continuous sexual abuse with three girls and one boy, each younger than 14, between Sept. 13, 2010, and April 15, 2011, according to a Sept. 28 complaint filed by the Los Angeles County district attorney's office.

The disclosures about Chapel, 50, come in the wake of an abuse scandal at Miramonte Elementary, south of downtown, in which two veteran teachers were arrested on charges of lewd conduct against children. That school's entire staff has been replaced, at least temporarily, as an investigation proceeds.

Parents at Telfair were sent a letter Friday and the Los Angeles Unified School District is planning to schedule a Monday evening meeting as well.

School board member Nury Martinez, who represents the area, said she first learned of the case from media reports.

"I'm not making any excuses about any of this," Martinez said. "I want changes. This is completely unacceptable."

"I'm so outraged and so frustrated that we can't seem to protect children," she added.

Martinez said she met with about 40 outraged parents in the school library Friday morning. They demanded answers that she did not have.

A district statement said that "complaints against the teacher were lodged in the spring of last year," leading to Chapel's removal from class last April.

Los Angeles police requested that no information be released during the investigation, which included interviews with Chapel's former students, school district officials said.

But no such stipulation was made after the arrest four months ago.

"We need to find a way to work with authorities on what we are allowed to share," Martinez said.

Chapel's arrest was first reported Thursday by the Los Angeles Daily News. He is in custody in lieu of $2.2-million bail.

rick.rojas@latimes.com

howard.blume@latimes.com

Los Angeles Times staff writer Sam Quinones contributed to this report.

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