Parents reacted with shock and concern Thursday morning at a meeting at George De La Torre Jr. Elementary School in Wilmington a day after a former veteran teacher was charged with sexually abusing 20 children and one adult.
Arriving in the driving rain Thursday morning, parent Oscar Esquivel called the situation “a tragedy” after he dropped off his daughter, who’s in kindergarten at the school.
“When you take the kids to school, we think they’re in a safe place. Right? And that’s not true,” Esquivel said. “So whose fault is this? The school? The parents? Or the system? And what else can we do?”
Pimentel pleaded not guilt to charges of sexually abusing 20 children and one adult. He retired last March after allegations surfaced. L.A. Unified School District officials removed the school's principal in March, after they learned about the allegations.
The L.A. Unified School District invited Esquivel and other parents to a meeting at the school Thursdayto talk about events surrounding the alleged abuse.
Rosa Zarate, mother of a fifth grader at De La Torre, said she was very surprised when she learned about the allegations. She said that Pimentel never taught her daughter’s class — but that he did help her out sometimes with reading and math. Zarate said it’s been tough discussing the situation with her daughter.
“I asked her not to get too friendly with the teachers at all, … especially the males,” Zarate said. That’s a big change from when she was a young student. Zarate said that when she was younger, she'd been close with a lot of her teachers. “But right now, it’s kind of weird.”
Later in the morning, Attorney Luis Carillo arrived to speak to reporters. Carillo represents students who are alleged victims of sexual abuse at Miramonte Elementary School. He said the Pimentel case at De La Torre Elementary is another indication that the school district isn’t doing enough to protect students.
“The reason that certain perverts continue to do these things is because they know that the school district is asleep,” Carillo said. He wants L.A. Unified to establish an independent monitor for student safety, and a hotline to field reports of sexual abuse.