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Latest school sex crime alleged at Fremont High

Juliana D. Norwood | 2/15/2012, 5 p.m.

With the Los Angeles Unified School District reeling from three recent revelations of sexual improprieties with students comes the latest allegations from John C. Fremont High School in South Los Angeles.

Alain Salas, 40, a teacher's aide and coaching assistant, was arrested on suspicion of three counts of lewd acts and one count of contacting a minor for a sexual offense, according to officials. The arrest was made Monday by members of the FBI's Sexual Assault Felony Enforcement team.

According to the FBI, the victim of the alleged crimes is a 15-year-old student.

Salas was being held without bail, according to the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department. He was set to be arraigned Wednesday at Compton Superior Court.

Salas worked at Fremont since 2006 as a teacher's aide for special education students and as a coaching assistant for girls' softball and volleyball, according to the district.

Investigators allege that the crimes occurred between Oct. 1 and Nov. 30.

An ex-LAUSD teacher, Paul Chapel, was apparently arrested last fall, but the case has just recently been revealed by the district, reports the L.A. Weekly. The instructor at Telfair Elementary in Pacoima was charged with sexual abuse and lewd acts on children.

Meanwhile, United Teachers-Los Angeles, the union that represents Los Angeles schoolteachers, is hopeful that most if not all of the 85 educators transferred out of Miramonte Elementary School will eventually return.

President Warren Fletcher said the union will work with Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) administrators to get the Miramonte teachers back "as soon and as smoothly as possible."

Last week, LAUSD Superintendent John Deasy surprised the union and parents by removing every teacher, custodian and lunch employee from the school, where the two teachers, Mark Berndt and Martin Springer, are accused of sex crimes.

"When we were told that the teachers would be getting administrative transfers, en masse, that was essentially a disciplinary act," Fletcher said. "We were very surprised. Three or four of these teachers are nationally board-certified teachers, and that's a high honor," Fletcher said. "They belong in the classroom; they had nothing to do with any crimes or misbehavior."

Fletcher also said the teachers union wants to make sure that no innocent teacher keeps any administrative transfer in their personnel records, which is widely viewed as a stain on a teacher's reputation and vocational record.

The former Miramonte staff went back to work on Monday at their new location, Augustus Hawkins High School, where they will not be teaching any students. The employees will instead be interviewed by authorities as part of the sex-abuse investigation. The district has said that if nothing emerges, once the investigation is over, the teachers will return to Miramonte.

Former third-grade teacher Mark Berndt is accused of blindfolding students and feeding them his semen on spoons and cookies. Investigators said he took hundreds of pictures of the students--some with live cockroaches on their faces.

Second-grade teacher Martin Springer is accused of fondling a girl in his classroom three years ago. Authorities believe there are more victims, but many parents are afraid to come forward.

Los Angeles Sheriff Lee Baca is sending letters to parents, encouraging them to speak to investigators.