One of the nation’s top attorneys accused Gilroy school officials Wednesday of outrageous conduct in allowing a teacher to return to the classroom after a complaint alleging sexual misconduct with a student.
Gloria Allred, who has been involved in high-profile women’s rights and other civil rights cases, addressed the Gilroy Unified School District board at its regular evening meeting on behalf of Celeste Benn, who has claimed that officials, including superintendent Debbie Flores, refused to listen or mete out appropriate punishment when she alleged in October 2014 that the teacher sent her daughter, 15, sexually charged text messages.
The teacher, Douglas Le, 25, was arrested April 26 by San Jose police on suspicion of soliciting lewd photos from minor boys. He resigned April 29.
“He should not have been permitted to teach [in 2014], children and families have been harmed,” Allred said before a nearly full chamber at GUSD headquarters on Arroyo Circle.
Allred called for a full investigation into, among other things, whether school officials complied with all laws in handling Benn’s complaint, including those that require officials to report suspicions that an adult might be sexually victimizing a minor.
The Los Angeles lawyer announced a press conference for 3 p.m. today at school district headquarters about what her press release called the “sexual misconduct” case. The GUSD office is at 7810 Arroyo Circle, Gilroy.
On Wednesday evening Allred told the press there might be more minor victims.
Calmly addressing the board, Benn called for changes in how the district deals with student safety issues.
“You had one job to do and you failed to do it for my daughter and all the boys that followed,” she said.
She described how she was refused meetings with Flores and Gilroy High School principal Marco Sanchez the day after the incident. The district only responded when she threatened to go to the media, but permitted Le to continue teaching, forcing her frightened daughter to transfer to Christopher High School, she said.
As the meeting began, trustee Linda Piceno spoke for the board after a closed session. She said of the 2014 incident that Le’s behavior “did not rise to the level of dismissal” and that while his conduct was “unprofessional and unacceptable,” it was not a crime.
However, an attorney who specializes in child abuse law and is closely involved in the Benn case told the Dispatch the district is wrong. A crime did occur, he said, because of the sexually explicit nature of the texts sent to Benn’s daughter. The district was required to report the incident to authorities, he said. He asked not to be identified.