WILMINGTON (CBSLA.com) —A Los Angeles Unified School District teacher arrested for the alleged sexual abuse of 15 children was arraigned Thursday afternoon.
George De La Torre Jr. Elementary School teacher Robert Pimentel, 57, is facing eight counts of continuous sexual abuse and seven counts of lewd acts upon a child, according to the Los Angeles District Attorney.
Pimentel’s attorney said his client will plead not guilty.
The Los Angeles Police Department arrested Pimentel, a fourth grade teacher, on Wednesday after a 10-month long investigation into accusations made by female students.
Pimentel was placed on administrative leave on March 19, 2012 after several young girls told their parents they had been inappropriately touched by the teacher.
The former teacher has been charged with molesting 15 children, but investigators believe he may have abused as many as 20, 19 who were reportedly students at the Wilmington school.
Parents at Del La Torre Elementary were notified of his arrest via a recorded phone call Wednesday. They met with school leaders about the situation Thursday morning.
“What else can you trust if you can’t trust the schools,” one parent said after the meeting.
According to Superintendent John Deasy, Pimentel was immediately removed from the classroom when the allegations surfaced.
The school’s principal, who has not been identified, was also removed because Deasy felt they failed to handle the situation properly.
The LAUSD then began the process to fire both Pimentel and the principal, but they retired before the district had the chance to do so.
“A week before the board meeting, the teacher retired, as did the principal and we . . . gave everything over to the authorities,” Deasy said.
Due to retirement, they both will now receive full pensions.
“It’s egregious. And, like I said a long time, people who commit acts like this should be terminated,” Deasy said. “We should not have cumbersome state laws around this and you should be able to fire someone even if they choose to retire.”
Pimentel had been employed by the L.A. Unified School District since 1974 and has also worked as a teacher at 74th Street Elementary School and Dominguez Elementary School.
“If you look at the record, before this, Pimentel has had a pretty exemplary life. He has no arrest record for anything…He’s raised a family, he’s been a soccer coach, he’s been a whole lot of things…he’s received awards. He’s been, as far as we’re concerned, an outstanding teacher,” Pimentel’s attorney Richard Knickerbocker said.
No discipline records were listed on his LAUSD employment summary.
“He was always hugging his students and being very friendly with them,” parent Maria Lemos, whose son was in Pimentel’s class last year, said.
United Teachers Los Angeles, the union representing the district’s teachers, issued a statement saying union officials are unfamiliar with the details of the case and that Pimentel is no longer a member of the union. Their organization will not be involved in his defense.
“The allegations described are horrific. As teachers we have a duty to uphold the trust our students and their parents place in us,” the statement reads. “We urge our members and the community to cooperate with ongoing law enforcement investigations in the case.”
Pimentel is being held at LAPD Metropolitan Detention Center on $12 million bail. Knickerbocker said he’s working to lower his bail.
Anyone with information regarding this matter was asked to call LAPD investigators at (213) 486-0570.