Spotlight in Sex Abuse Cases Turns to Principal

Officers investigating the Robert Pimentel sexual abuse cases have revealed that the Irene Hinojosa, the principal who supervised Pimentel at both Dominguez Elementary School and George de la Torre Jr. Elementary School in Wilmington, knew about the abuse for a decade and did not report allegations to police officers.

In 2002 and 2008, the principal was told that the teacher, Robert Pimentel, 57, inappropriately touched a student. But the principal failed to tell law enforcement authorities, as required by law, said L.A. schools Supt. John Deasy.

The Los Angeles Police Department began investigating Pimentel only last March, when they learned of more recent allegations at George de la Torre Jr. Elementary School.

LAPD Capt. Fabian Lizarraga said Thursday that detectives will launch an investigation into whether the principal, Irene Hinojosa, should face charges for failing to report alleged abuse. She could not be reached for comment Thursday.

It remains unclear why Hinojosa did not tell authorities about the accusations. The 2008 allegation also occurred at De la Torre, where she was principal. The 2002 allegation was made when Pimentel was a teacher and Hinojosa the principal at Dominguez Elementary in Carson, Deasy said.

At De la Torre, volunteer Magdalena Gonzalez said Thursday that Hinojosa had been made aware of several questionable incidents involving Pimentel.

Three years ago, she said, a girl told her parent that Pimentel had playfully spanked students. Gonzalez also said she and other volunteers saw Pimentel pull on a student’s bra strap during a fifth-grade graduation ceremony.

Gonzalez alleged that Hinojosa was dismissive of their complaints and that she allowed Pimentel to have students in his classroom during recess and lunch despite their misgivings.

“We told her he was touching the girls,” Gonzalez said in Spanish.

School employees are required by law to report allegations of sexual misconduct to police. They also are supposed to report such issues to their supervisors, according to school district policies. LA Times, 25 Jan 2012.

Parents of LAUSD school children remain outraged at the way the district has handled these cases. An audit revealed more than 100 cases where the district had not properly reported allegations of sexual abuse and misconduct.

Image via: Jeff Gritchen / Pool photo