Parent accuses Juan Cabrillo teacher of abuse

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A special education teacher at Juan Cabrillo Elementary School has been accused of neglecting and improperly restraining students. School district officials say the allegations were investigated and found to be without merit.

By Knowles Adkisson / The Malibu Times

A special education teacher at Juan Cabrillo Elementary School has been accused by a parent of neglect and improperly restraining students.

Christina Ficeto, whose daughter is enrolled in a class with students who range from moderately to severely disabled, made the allegations at the school district Board of Education’s meeting last Thursday in Malibu. School district officials say the allegations were investigated and found to be without merit.

After being contacted by parents, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department is currently investigating the claims.

Sandra Lyon, superintendent of the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District, said at the board meeting that all district staff and administrators were cooperating with the Sheriff’s investigation. Lyon said the district would not comment further because personnel issues are confidential.

Ficeto, who told The Malibu Times she was speaking on behalf of other parents, said she learned about the alleged incidents the weekend of Oct. 22 when instructional aides to the class told her and other parents about them. The teacher remained in the classroom that day and the next, Ficeto said, and then was reassigned to a different elementary school within the district.

On Oct. 28, Ficeto said she and other parents met with Barry Yates, principal of Juan Cabrillo, and Sara Woolverton, the special education director for the school district. At that meeting Yates told them an investigation had been conducted into one incident and no wrongdoing was found.

However, Ficeto maintains that she and other parents received multiple reports from the aides of neglect and abuse, and that Yates and other administrators should have known about them.

In a telephone interview last Friday, Yates denied the accusation that he and other administrators did not properly report suspicions of child abuse or neglect.

“We have not ignored this in any way, shape or form,” Yates said. “We conducted an internal investigation and found them to not have merit. We found a couple of things that we are changing as a result, but nothing major.”

Yates said a second investigation was currently underway by the district. While the investigation was not finished, Yates said, “Our confidence is high that a conclusion will show that Cabrillo is safe and there isn’t a problem in that area.”

Yates confirmed that the teacher had been transferred to a different school. However, he denied charges by Ficeto the transfer was related to the allegations.

“She’s just reassigned,” Yates said. “She is a new teacher at the district, and we’re using this opportunity to give her exposure to similar classrooms in the district so that she can learn the district ways of our Special Ed department. These trainings that she is going to [at a different elementary school] were planned as part of this orientation.”