The claims are shocking. Paul Chapel, 50, a third-grade teacher at Telfair Elementary School in the LA Unified School District, arrested and charged with over a dozen counts of lewd acts, forcible lewd acts, and continuing sexual abuse. The victims? Students in and around his classroom. All victims were under 14 at the time of the assaults.
The crime are horrible enough, but parents are also outraged over how the district ignored warning signs of abuse. Chapel was arrested in October of 2011, but parents were not notified until last week. In addition, it was revealed that this was not the first or even second time Chapel had been investigated, sued, or arrested. He was arrested and tried for sexual abuse in 1997, while a teacher at Andasol Avenue Elementary, but was not fired after the jury was unable to reach a verdict.
In the 1997 incident, Chapel was accused of molesting an 8-year-old neighbor who was sleeping at his house with Chapel’s son, who was about the same age. Chapel was accused of assaulting the boy as he slept; the boy broke free and ran home.
According to L.A. Unified records, the day after Chapel was arrested, the district alerted the state Commission on Teacher Credentialing and that agency suspended Chapel’s credential. The school district suspended Chapel without pay from Andasol Avenue Elementary in Northridge, where he had worked about a decade.
The molestation case went to trial. A jury failed to reach a verdict because of the lack of physical evidence — it was Chapel’s word against the child’s, said an attorney who was involved in the case. Prosecutors opted not to retry the case.
L.A. Unified records indicate that criminal charges were dismissed Aug. 24, 1998. By Sept. 15, the state Commission on Teacher Credentialing had reinstated Chapel’s credential and he returned to work — with back pay. He was sent to Telfair.
The commission has an independent obligation to rule on the fitness of teachers. L.A. Unified files contain a summary of the case, along with the outcome, from the commission, Ekchian said. Los Angeles Times, 7 March 2012.
Chapel was also forced to resign in the late 1980s from Chaminade College Preparatory after making “unnecessarily explicit and crude comments in a sex-education class.”
While a teacher at Telfair, he attempted to take several children on an unauthorized trip. Stannis Steinbeck, a former principal, stopped the trip and informed her supervisors. No disciplinary action was taken.