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Senior LAUSD officials knew of child abuse claims, lawyers say

Robert Pimentel appears at his arraignment in January in Los Angeles County Superior Court. Credit: Jeff Gritchen /Getty Images

Senior LAUSD officials were allegedly aware of parent complaints in 2009 about a Wilmington teacher who was charged in January with abusing children over an extended period of time, say attorneys who represent alleged victims.

The latest allegations concern the case of Robert Pimentel, 57, who has been charged with molesting 12 students at De La Torre Elementary School. Pimentel has pleaded not guilty.

Los Angeles Unified School District officials had previously acknowledged Pimentel’s principal was aware of allegations in 2002 and 2008. The principal’s alleged failure to act was cited as reason for her removal by L.A. schools Supt. John Deasy. Both Pimental and Principal Irene L. Hinojosa resigned as the district was preparing to fire them.

The superintendent said in January that he did not know whether allegations against Pimental went higher than the principal.

On Thursday, attorneys alleged the allegations reached senior officials, namely Holly Priebe-Diaz, a veteran district mediator, and Linda Del Cueto, who oversees instructional programs in the San Fernando Valley. In 2009, she was one of eight top regional administrators across the nation’s second-largest school system.

According to accounts by the attorneys, Priebe-Diaz and Del Cueto were involved in a mediation to settle conflicts between parents and Hinojosa. As they worked through various issues, one parent asserted Pimentel had touched her daughter inappropriately and the principal had failed to follow up appropriately. Another parent who was present has corroborated that account, said attorney Luis Carrillo.

The witnesses also said either Priebe-Diaz or Del Cueto were taking notes as the allegation was made against Pimentel.

“It’s logical to assume those notes are turned into reports,” said Carrillo during a news conference outside the district’s downtown headquarters. Such reports should have gone “to the highest levels of the LAUSD.”

He added: “All the big shots in this building failed to protect the children and covered up child abuse when it occurred.”

Carrillo represents three cleints who have filed damage claims related to Pimental. Another attorney with clients, John Manly, independently echoed Carrillo’s claims.

District officials on Thursday confirmed that a mediation took place in 2009, but they had nothing to say about who was there or whether abuse allegations were made, citing an ongoing internal investigation.

Priebe-Diaz and Del Cueto could not be reached for comment.

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-- Howard Blume

Photo: Robert Pimentel appears at his arraignment in January in Los Angeles County Superior Court. Credit: Jeff Gritchen /Getty Images

 
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