A Theodore Roosevelt High School Spanish teacher was free on bail this week following her arrest on suspicion of having sex with two students–the latest in a string of sex-abuse cases that have bedeviled the Los Angeles Unified School District.

Gabriela Cortez, 42, was arrested Feb. 22 and booked on suspicion of unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor, said Montebello police Lt. Luis Lopez. She posted $140,000 bail and was ordered to appear in court March 22.
Although Cortez teaches in Boyle Heights, the alleged crimes occurred in Montebello, where she lives, Lopez said.

The investigation began Feb. 15, when authorities were contacted “by a victim of an alleged sexual relationship involving him and a teacher,” Lopez said, adding that the man wanted to get things “off his chest.”

“Although the victim was a student at the time of the alleged crime, he is now an adult,” Lopez said.

The investigation triggered by the first alleged victim led to a second alleged victim–also now an adult–who “provided information regarding a sexual relationship involving him and the suspect,” Lopez said.

Anyone with information about the case is urged to contact Montebello police Detective Andrade at (323) 887-1255.

Also this week, a 32-year-old high school band teacher remains jailed on suspicion of having unlawful sex with a 17-year-old girl who was a member of a visiting school’s dance team.
Corey Hogan of Hawthorne was arrested Monday after the alleged victim and her mother reported to the Hawthorne Police Department that the student had sex with the suspect at his home, according to Hawthorne Police Department Lt. Scott Swain.

“After [a] game, Hogan gave the victim and a few other students a ride home. After the other students were dropped off, the victim agreed to go to … Hogan’s residence in Hawthorne where she consented to have sex with him,” he said.

Police arrested Hogan at Washington High School, and he was booked at the Hawthorne Police Department.

Hogan’s bail was set at $100,000, according to the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department’s Inmate Information Center website.

Coinciding with the arrests of Hogan and Cortez is the revelation that a clause in the district’s teacher contract allows information about alleged misconduct that does not result in disciplinary action to be removed from personnel files after four years.

Los Angeles Unified School District Superintendent John Deasy instructed labor negotiators to push for the removal of the clause, which was included in contracts at the insistence of the teachers’ union, United Teachers Los Angeles, 20 years ago.

“In the interests of affording greater protections to our students, I have instructed the Los Angeles Unified School District’s negotiating team to enter into discussions immediately with the teachers’ union to change or eliminate this practice,” Deasy said.

UTLA President Warren Fletcher said the union has no problem with discussing the issue. “UTLA is always open to discussions at the negotiating table and as teachers we are always open to discuss ways to assure children are safe,” he said.

Deasy said that in response to the recent string of allegations, he also ordered an investigation into the district’s system of reporting alleged misconduct by teachers. He said that probe led to the discovery of the contract clause.

The latest allegations coincided with word that the LAUSD plans to report all teachers accused of misconduct to the state credentialing commission in an effort to keep those who pose a risk to students out of the classroom.

The commission will do its own investigation and put in a teacher’s record what actions, if any, were taken.

Superintendent Deasy told the Los Angeles Times he has ordered staff to scour personnel files going back four years and submit all discipline cases to the state in hopes of uncovering any cases that were not previously reported to the commission.

The sweeping action covers hundreds of teachers in the nation’s second-largest school district who have been investigated by school officials or police for alleged misconduct ranging from sexual abuse to excessive absenteeism, the Times reported.

Deasy announced the new approach a day after the paper reported that a substitute teacher was able to get a job in the Inglewood school system after he resigned from LAUSD in 2007 following three sexual-abuse investigations. The LAUSD has no evidence that it informed the credentialing commission about those investigations.

The teacher, George Hernandez, was later accused of sexually assaulting an Inglewood student. He later fled to Mexico, according to relatives.

“I’m horrified,” Deasy said of recent revelations about the handling of past abuse allegations.
His effort could trigger new investigations of some instructors by the credentialing commission. School districts rely on the agency to flag problem teachers who apply for jobs in new districts and will check on a individual prior to offering employment.

Besides the Hernandez case in 2007, the LAUSD has acknowledged that it did not immediately file misconduct records with the state involving Mark Berndt, a Miramonte Elementary teacher charged with 23 counts of lewd conduct against students. He pleaded not guilty on Feb. 21.
L.A. Unified should have filed a report on Berndt within 30 days after the Board of Education voted to fire him in February 2011. Instead, the district waited until after Berndt’s arrest last month to do so.

School districts in California are required to report teachers to the State Commission on Teacher Credentialing when they leave or change jobs as a result of allegations against them. Districts also have the option of reporting any serious concerns about a teacher to the commission.

Since Berndt’s arrest on Jan. 30, the school district has been hit repeatedly by allegations of sexual crimes against children. The first involved Martin Springer, another third-grade teacher at Miramonte.

A short time later, Paul Adame, 37, a janitor at Germain Elementary School in Chatsworth, was arrested on suspicion of committing a lewd act.

Then, the LAUSD Board of Education voted to fire both Springer and someone whose name had not previously emerged publicly–Vance Miller–an award-winning music teacher at Alexander Hamilton High School who was named in two civil lawsuits accusing him of molesting former students.

The district suffered another black eye this month when parents learned from a report in the Daily News that a third-grade teacher named Paul William Chapel had been removed from Telfair Elementary School in Pacoima during the spring on suspicion of sexually abusing three girls and a boy.

On Wednesday, authorities announced that a Crenshaw High School teacher whose name was not released has resigned amid a police investigation and that a 27-year-old Polytechnic High School athletic assistant named Jose Rosario Alvarez was arrested on suspicion of having an inappropriate relationship with a 16-year-old girl who attended another LAUSD school.