More allegations of a teacher abusing children. More cover-up. This time, it's the Mt. Diablo Unified School District.
When will school employees, from janitors to superintendents, learn that, by law, they must immediately report even suspected abuse to authorities? When will state leaders learn that school officials cannot be trusted to properly train their workers?
The Assembly Appropriations Committee, chaired by Mike Gatto, D-Burbank, recently blocked a minimal bill that would have required each school district to develop a reporting policy and to review it with employees annually. Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson refuses to establish a training program and model policies for schools to ensure there's no ambiguity.
They don't get it. Mt. Diablo is not unique. In Moraga, San Jose, Brentwood, Antioch and, allegedly, Redwood City, cases of sexual and physical abuse also went unreported.
Had Mt. Diablo district employees gone to police back in 2005, many students might have been spared the alleged abuse of teacher Joseph Andrew Martin.
He faces 120 felony charges of lewd acts upon children under age 14 and five charges involving children 14 or 15. According to a claim against the district filed by seven victims and their parents, Martin targeted young male students, many in his fourth- and fifth-grade classes at Woodside Elementary School.
Teachers found his classroom door locked. They saw students leaving as late as 8 p.m. One teacher discovered Martin and a boy in a closet. Over the years, at least five teachers and one parent complained to the principal, according to the claim.
The school district hired an outside attorney, who conducted an investigation that found that the allegations "at least suggest the subject matter of potential child abuse."
The abuse continued. No one notified police. Instead, in 2006, the district simply required that Martin keep his classroom door open, have more than one student in the room and put distance between himself and students -- conditions that were allegedly ignored as the abuse continued.
Finally, this year, someone notified police. What had district employees -- teachers, principals, administrators, attorneys and trustees -- known? And when did they know it?
Documents, including the district's 2006 investigation, could provide answers. Yet the district's attorneys and trustees continue stonewalling, refusing this newspaper's legitimate public records request.
They falsely claim this is a personnel matter; documents of wrongdoing are not exempt from disclosure. They wrongly claim the report is protected by attorney-client privilege; investigative reports are not protected by that privilege.
The public deserves to know what happened. After eight years, it's time for the district to come clean.