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What's going on in the Hart District?

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Posted: June 15, 2008 3:19 p.m.
Updated: August 16, 2008 5:02 a.m.
In the last several weeks, there have been five cases reported on our pages of some sort of sexually inappropriate contact between a student and a coach, counselor or teacher. That's right ... five, and this number could grow as investigations continue.

This is appalling. Every parent in this valley has to wonder what is going on.

The recent cases:
* We have a former female Golden Valley High School counselor arrested last week for checking into a hotel in the San Fernando Valley with a minor. She resigned in May during a district investigation into alleged inappropriate behavior with two students.

* We have a volunteer coach at Canyon High School arrested last week on suspcion of sexual assault on a female student at Birmingham High School in the San Fernando Valley, where he is employed. Since his arrest, three more San Fernando Valley girls have come forward. This man was coaching the Canyon varsity football team since spring training began - without any sort of district screening.

* We have a West Ranch High School teacher placed on administrative leave pending a Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department Special Victims Bureau investigation regarding allegations of inappropriate contact with a student.

* We have a La Mesa Junior High School teacher also under Special Victims Bureau investigation for inappropriate contact with a student.

* And finally, we have a Canyon High School teacher under investigation by the SCV Sheriff's Station for some specific "inappropriate" misdemeanor allegations that involve e-mail communications.

Sgt. Dan Scott, who is in charge of the Santa Clarita Valley cases, told a Signal reporter, "We are seriously investigating these cases and putting all the resources possible into it." He also said, "it is unusual to be investigating so many cases in one area at once."

So we are wondering: Where is the district on this?

The Hart district has responded by putting alleged perpetrators on leave while investigations are conducted.

But for parents who wonder if their students are victims of sexual misconduct by those entrusted with their children's care, that's small comfort. The district won't even reveal to parents the names of those under investigation, leaving parents to speculate, to compare notes - and understandably, to spread rumors.
Under law, the district's hands are tied as far as releasing names.

After all, the accused are innocent until proven guilty, and unfounded allegations of sexual misconduct can destroy a school district employee's career.

But parents, and this newspaper, would find it more comforting if it seemed the district was doing something about the situation, short of keeping mum whenever possible on the issue.

It's little comfort to learn that anti-sexual-harassment training consisted, until recently, only of online video sessions once a year.

Sure, the district responded to all these recent allegations with additional training requirements. But apparently these apply only to administrators and management.

What about the coaches, teachers and counselors who interact daily with students?

The parents of this valley put a lot of trust in the district's teachers and administrators. This trust has now been not only broken, but violated.

We believe it is time for the school board to get involved and take some serious action to prevent this from happening again. Policies need to be updated. Parental concerns need to be acknowledged. Trust needs to be rebuilt.

But above all, the board and the district administrators need to show that they fully comprehend the magnitude of this problem and have taken significant action to protect our students.

The parents and students of the Santa Clarita Valley deserve nothing less.


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