A teacher at Center Street School in El Segundo has been arrested on suspicion of molesting two fifth-grade boys in his classroom last year, police said.
Jeffrey Simonek, 27, of Torrance also is under investigation for similar alleged crimes against other boys at a Lake Tahoe summer camp, and he taught and volunteered at several other schools and camps catering to children, El Segundo police Lt. Ray Garcia said. He was taken into custody Wednesday.
"Simonek has also volunteered with various youth organizations in Los Angeles and Orange County, which placed him in direct contact with young boys," Garcia said. "Based on the investigation, it is believed Simonek sought these volunteer and counselor positions, which allowed him to interact with boys he could potentially victimize."
El Segundo detectives opened an investigation into Simonek on Aug. 2 after the county Department of Children and Family Services received an anonymous report alleging the sexual assault on the two boys. School officials were notified and Simonek was placed on leave, Garcia said.
"A thorough investigation was conducted and it was determined that two students were assaulted last school year in a classroom while attending Center Street School in El Segundo," Garcia said.
Garcia declined to release details of what happened, but said some of the alleged crimes occurred while other students were in the classroom.
"The kids were not willing participants," he said.
The boys did not report the alleged crimes to anyone. Detectives contacted the children after the tip, Garcia said.
Simonek was arrested on suspicion of committing lewd acts with children under 14. He was booked at the El Segundo jail and held on $300,000 bail.
A website, smarterclassrooms.com, featured Simonek in an article in the past, calling him "an incredible fifth-grade teacher who has taken on the integration of technology in his classroom with full force." The article said other teachers looked to him for support and encouragement to integrate technology into his lessons, and credited him for using a large electronic board in his classroom.
"I'm adventurous, and I just try things," Simonek told the website. "And, I take what I'm best with and I manipulate it. I like to fail at things and make them better so that I have a better understanding of how to use them. I'm not afraid to try things. Sometimes it's going to work, and if it completely blows up in my face I'm OK with that!"
Police said Simonek worked at The Painted Turtle, a camp in Lake Hughes for children with chronic illnesses. He also volunteered at the South Bay Conservatory, a children's performing arts group in Torrance, as well as another defunct dance troupe in Torrance. Simonek also was a volunteer with Big Brothers and Big Sisters in Orange County.
"These are the places we are looking at," Garcia said. "We know he's been around kids. His life revolves around kids."
Garcia said Simonek enjoyed going to children's sporting events and bar mitzvahs, and baby-sat for parents.
"He's a very, very popular teacher," Garcia said. "Parents love him. That's why they allow him into their lives. The kids loved him. The teachers loved him. The administration loved him and the families did."
Police asked anyone with information about Simonek or any other allegations to call Detective Jeff Humphrey at 310-524-2284 or send emails to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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