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LAUSD phys ed teacher placed on unpaid leave for alleged sex crimes

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An L.A. Unified physical education teacher who careened off the freeway following a police chase has been placed on unpaid leave today after he was charged with multiple felony counts of sexually molesting a 14-year-old girl, district officials said.

Kip Richard Arnold, 51, a Southeast Middle School teacher, was charged Friday with three felony counts of lewd acts on a child who was 14, two counts of oral copulation of a person under 16, one count of sexual penetration by a foreign object, plus one count of evading an officer, according to Deputy District Attorney Diana Martinez.

"The staff of employee relations will monitor the criminal proceedings until the matter is concluded," said LAUSD spokeswoman Gayle Pollard-Terry. She said the state's education code requires a mandatory leave of absence when a teacher is charged with committing a sex offense.

Pollard-Terry said the charging documents, once received by the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing, would also result in an automatic suspension of Arnold's teaching credential. The commission has not yet received the charging documents and so his credential was still valid as of this morning.

"Credential documents will be suspended upon receipt of the charging document of a specific child sex crime," said Erin Sullivan, a spokesperson for the Commission on Teacher Credentialing.

Arnold has been a teacher with LAUSD for eight years and previously worked at Nimitz Middle School, Gage Middle School and Orchard Academies 2B.

Arnold remained in stable condition in the hospital today, said Bell Police Sgt. Art Jimenez; he will be arraigned once he is cleared by doctors and released, said Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office spokeswoman Jane Robison.

"The minute he's released [from the hospital] they'll arrest him and he'll be in court," Robison said.

Arnold was allegedly involved in a sexual relationship with a 14-year-old girl at Nimitz Middle School between June and September 2005. The woman, now an adult, reported the incident to the Bell Police Department on July 5.

According to the felony complaint for arrest warrant, Arnold "willfully, unlawfully and lewdly commit[ted] a lewd and lascivious act upon and with the body of" the 14-year-old "with the intent of arousing, appealing to, and gratifying [his] lust, passions and sexual desires."

Bell police detectives said they were preparing to arrest the Lakewood resident Tuesday and approached his black pickup truck to question him. Arnold allegedly made a comment about being suicidal and fled, leading police on a multi-freeway chase for about 40 minutes, said Bell Police Lt. Ty Henshaw.

The chase ended when Arnold careened over an embankment in Rolling Hills Estates and crashed into a building 70 feet below, according to the district attorney's office.

Prosecutors will ask that bail be set at $1 million. If he is convicted, Arnold will face up to seven years in state prison.

L.A. Unified sent out a pre-recorded call to parents and staff at Nimitz Middle School, Southeast Middle School and Bell High School to inform them of the chase and the teacher's arrest last week.

Henshaw said the department is not sure if there are other victims but are asking people with more information to come forward.

People with information may call the Bell Police Department at 323-585-1245.

This story has been updated.

Tami Abdollah can be reached via email and on Twitter (@latams).

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