For lawmakers doubting the need to require training of school workers on handling of child abuse cases, let's recap two years of stories from just one county.
As this newspaper's investigations in Contra Costa show, the problem isn't just abusers, it's also enablers -- educators who fail to carry out their legal mandate to report suspicions of abuse to law enforcement.
The inaction allows suspected abusers to remain in the classroom for months or years. When the cases finally surface, districts pay out millions to settle understandably angry parents' lawsuits.
The law is clear: Failure to immediately report suspected abuse to police or child protective services is a misdemeanor. Unfortunately, school employees often don't comply, either deliberately or out of ignorance.
State lawmakers must mandate annual training for all education workers about their reporting requirements. And it's time to punish those who fail to report.
Santa Clara County successfully prosecuted San Jose Principal Lyn Vijayendran for not notifying authorities of a parent's complaint of suspected sexual abuse. After a second parent informed police, the teacher, Craig Chandler, was convicted of molesting five girls.
But in Contra Costa, District Attorney Mark Peterson has brought no charges for failure to report suspected abuse, in some cases because he felt they weren't merited, in others because he says he needed witnesses' cooperation to prosecute the teachers.
Meanwhile, we learn of more notification breakdowns, of children who suffered, and of mounting court settlements.
Brentwood: Dina Holder repeatedly kicked a 5-year-old special needs student. Staff members reported the incident internally, and administrators investigated on their own. It was the parents, when they learned of the incident, who notified police.
Holder continued teaching for 21/2 more years, even after a misdemeanor child abuse conviction, and was only forced out as a condition of settling the parents' $950,000 civil lawsuit. A second lawsuit, filed by families of eight other physically and verbally abused special needs children, was settled for $8 million.
Antioch: Theresa Allen-Caulboy pleaded guilty to felony child abuse after prosecutors alleged she slapped, pinched and verbally abused six autistic students, ages 5-7.
It was parents, not school personnel, who finally told authorities. Allen-Caulboy had remained in the classroom for four months after reports of abusive behavior were first raised. One administrator bragged he was able to "de-escalate" a parent who had planned to notify police.
The district agreed to pay $8 million to families of eight students.
Concord: Allegations surfaced nearly a decade ago about elementary teacher Joseph Martin, who now faces 150 felony charges of molestation involving 14 students.
The Mt. Diablo district hired an outside attorney, whose 2006 investigation concluded complaints "at least suggest the subject matter of potential child abuse."
The district required Martin keep his classroom door open, have more than one student in the room and put distance between him and students. Yet abuse allegedly continued and, for years, no one notified police.
Martin was placed on administrative leave in 2013 after a parent reported allegations to the principal, who first allowed Martin to return the class to say goodbye. A district administrator then called police. The district faces four lawsuits stemming from failure to notify authorities years ago.
Antioch: According to a pending lawsuit by parents of an 8-year-old boy with learning disabilities, one teacher, Michelle Mankewich, placed duct tape over his mouth, and another, Marianne Dubitsky, put him underneath a chair and then sat on it to keep him in place.
When the child's parents heard of the incidents, they met with the principal, who promised a full investigation. The principal, who happened to be Dubitsky's mother, and two other school administrators found "no legal violations." School personnel didn't notify authorities at the time.
Moraga: In the 1990s, at least three district employees failed to report to police allegations of abuse by teacher Daniel Witters, allowing him to victimize more girls before committing suicide. After recent reports by this newspaper of what district officials knew at the time, four former students filed lawsuits. Two have been settled, at a cost of $4.65 million.
Clearly, some teachers and administrators cannot be trusted to do the right thing. For children's sake, lawmakers must act.