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LAUSD teacher removed from Lassen Elementary for alleged inappropriate behavior

March 6, 2012 12:00:00 AM PST
The Los Angeles Unified School District has removed another teacher following allegations of inappropriate behavior.

The teacher worked at Lassen Elementary School in North Hills. Principal Dana Carter sent parents a letter that said an employee was accused of inappropriate behavior. The letter does not specify what the allegations are.

Los Angeles Police said a male kindergarten teacher was being investigated for touching an 11-year-old female student inappropriately.

The investigation began on Feb. 27, according to the LAPD. Police said the teacher was not arrested, but has been removed from the classroom and reassigned by the Los Angeles Unified School District while the investigation continued.

The latest incident comes as state Assemblyman Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens) calls for an audit of how the district handles sexual misconduct cases. He said there appears to be a major lapse in identifying and removing teachers who are under investigation.

"I dropped my kids off to school and this is just scary. I don't know who to trust," said Wendy Espinosa, parent of a Lassen student.

In January, former Miramonte Elementary School teacher Mark Berndt was arrested and charged with 23 counts of lewd acts with children. He is accused of spoon-feeding his semen to boys and girls in his classroom. Sheriff's detectives investigated Berndt for 16 months to build their case.

Telfair Elementary teacher Paul Chapel was arrested last October on charges of child sex abuse, but parents only found out why last month.

In both cases, detectives told school officials not to reveal that the investigations were going on.

"The district supports any audit from government agencies that seeks to strengthen laws to protect children," LAUSD Superintendent John Deasy said in a statement. "This would include speeding up the process by which the district can dismiss employees proven to have engaged in sexual misconduct."

Deasy said parents need to know their children are safe at school, and he supports any efforts to ensure that's the case.

The Lassen front office has been fielding calls from parents asking to have the letter read over the phone. The letter was also to be sent home with students again Tuesday.

Anyone with information about this incident is asked to contact Mission Area Juvenile Detectives, Detective Bishop at (818) 838-9810. During non-business hours or on weekends, calls should be directed to 1-877-LAPD-24-7 (877-527-3247). Anyone wishing to remain anonymous should call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (800-222-8477). Tipsters may also contact Crime Stoppers by texting to phone number 274637 (C-R-I-M-E-S on most keypads) with a cell phone. All text messages should begin with the letters "LAPD." Tipsters may also go to LAPDOnline.org, click on "webtips" and follow the prompts.