"As soon as he walked past her, he came around and grabbed her by the face," said Lt. Michael Ishii of the Hawthorne Police Department.
Lt. Ishii said the victim screamed, fought the man off and ran away. The suspect fled after the girl elbowed her.
Surveillance cameras at a nearby insurance business captured the attack on tape. The business owner turned the video over to detectives to help them track down the suspect.
"It's really scary to know that there's actually people like this, and in this area there's two different big schools, so it's scary for the little girls," said Teresa Esparza, who works nearby.
No arrests have been made.
The suspect was described as a male Hispanic with a dark complexion, between 35 and 40 years old, 5 feet 11 inches and 200 pounds. He has curly, short black hair and a large nose.
Police said the suspect did not appear armed.
Ishii said the attack should serve as a warning to all students.
"We encourage them to walk in groups and, just as this case shows, walking alone, even though it's 6:30 in the morning and there's cars driving by, you may be a victim," he said.
If you have any information regarding the case, you're asked to call the Hawthorne Police Department at (310) 349-2700.