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Teacher accused of molesting 20 students: Parents have questions

January 24, 2013 | 10:57 am

The day after news broke that a former teacher at a Wilmington elementary school has been accused of molesting 20 children and one adult, some parents say they still have questions after meeting with administrators.

Parents, mostly Spanish speakers, trickled out of George de la Torre Jr. Elementary School after meeting with administrators Thursday morning. Most walked back home under umbrellas, some carrying children too young to go to school.

"They're saying there are accusations against the teacher but they won't tell us if they have been substantiated," Nancy Najera, 35, of Wilmington, said in Spanish. "It leaves me with a lot of doubts."

Robert Pimentel, 57, who taught at George de la Torre Jr. Elementary School in Wilmington, was taken into custody by Los Angeles police detectives, who had launched an investigation in March after several fourth-grade girls said they had been inappropriately touched.

Prosecutors filed 15 charges against Pimentel involving a dozen alleged victims. The charges allege sexual abuse and lewd acts on a child and cover the period from September 2011 to March 2012, according to court records. Authorities said the teacher is suspected of inappropriately touching children under and over their clothing.

At the meeting with parents, administrators declined to go into specifics regarding the allegations, parents said. Instead, the meeting focused on how to tell students about the accusations and to heed concerns from children, several parents said.

"They didn't tell us what grade he taught," Najera said, adding that her son, who is in kindergarten, has been asking her questions about Pimentel.

"How do I explain this to a child?" she said. "The school tells you they're safe but how do really know?"

Veronica Hernandez, 36, of Wilmington has two children at the school: a second-grader and a fourth-grader. They started last fall and had heard about the accusations from other students.

"I had heard about it too and I didn't want them to come here but the district moved them here," Hernandez said in Spanish, tears forming in her eyes. "Now look at what happened."

Francis Escobar, 38, of Wilmington said school officials sought to assure parents that they were investigating the accusations thoroughly and keeping a closer eye on classrooms.

Her fourth-grade daughter told Escobar that the new principal had been stopping by classrooms frequently. Escobar said she's not sure if she'll take her daughter out of the school.

"I'll see and give it a chance," Escobar said. "The new principal seemed really nice and I'm going to talk to my daughter about all this."


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— Adolfo Flores in Wilmington