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Diablo View MS teacher confesses to unlawful sex with minor

By Theresa Harrington
Friday, December 9th, 2011 at 6:32 pm in Education, Mt. Diablo school district.

Teacher Andrew Bruce Cottrell was arrested Friday at Diablo View MS in Clayton.

This afternoon, Mt. Diablo district Superintendent Steven Lawrence alerted the community to the arrest of Diablo Middle School teacher Andrew Bruce Cottrell.

Here is a link to Lawrence’s message: https://asp.schoolmessenger.com/m/?s=24H02iMKRrI

Later, the Walnut Creek Police Department released further details, reporting that Cottrell, a 41-year-old Walnut Creek resident, had confessed to unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor under 16 and lewd acts with a victim who is 14 or 15 years old.

Here is a link to the Walnut Creek news advisory: https://local.nixle.com/alert/4762799/?sub_id=215768.
Please be aware that it includes explicit information about the sexual charges.

Cottrell’s bail was set at $975,000.

Police arrested Cottrell at noon, when students were on campus. After school, word was still spreading about the arrest.

“Right now, the kids are all kind of hyper,” said Melissa Kirmsse, parent faculty club treasurer, on Friday afternoon.

Kirmsse said she was saddened by the news and concerned about the victim.

“My heart goes out to the child that is brave enough to come forward,” she said. “I hope this is not going to lead to a Penn State situation, where more kids come forward.”

Anyone who might have other information is asked to contact Walnut Creek police at 925-943-5844.

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  • anon

    I just wish the school would’ve kept kids in their classes when this was happening. Unfortunately my student saw him being taken away in handcuffs covered by some kind of plastic bag. Yes, my student would’ve heard about it anyway, but I don’t feel that he/she should have witnessed it.

  • anon

    Anon, of course he/she should have. Now they all know that creeps aren’t just the scummy guy on the corner, or the shady old man hiding behind a fence, or a “stranger” lurking in a van – it’s a lesson if we let it be. It is a lesson for our kids to be aware always, that they need to speak up, always and that they need to know when and who to call when something doesn’t feel right. I think it is good the kids saw.

  • Doctor J

    Did the District bring in professional grief type counselors to help the students deal with what happened on Friday or did Lawrence & Co. just wing it by themselves ? I am sure there are a fair number of kids that are “creeped out” by the thought of the teacher. I imagine there are a number of kids that feel insecure about coming to school. Maybe DVMS just needs an early recess for the holidays ?

  • anon

    Doctor J, the message from the school is that they would have support. Here is message. Also a parent meeting tonight: https://asp.schoolmessenger.com/m/?s=NUBdWk9D4DE

  • Doctor J

    @Anon #4 I hope they are professional children’s grief counselors, not just “school counselors” who as well intended may not be specifically trained in this area. I thought it was particularly very sensitive to use Diablo View teachers to cover the classes today, instead of some unknown substitute — that should give some comfort to the children.
    As for the parent’s meeting tonight — these are not just any parents — these are Clayton parents. Lawrence recently became very familiar with them and their willingness to stand up for their children. The last thing he wants is more unhappy Clayton parents. :-) Frankly, I am surprised they didn’t have this meeting over the weekend and waited until last night to announce it.

  • Just J

    Dr. J: I will let you know after school what type of professionals they brought in. The message I heard was District support. I am not sure they would bring in outside help. I agree with you that the people who work for the district may be well intentioned but lack of training could do more harm.

    I wish they would have been able to talk to parents before the kids or instead of going into each class they would have had an assembly for each grade level. That way parents could go in and hear what they are saying to our children.

    As far as upset Clayton family’s Yes the district does not want more but it is a bit to late for that. We still want our Charter now more than ever. There is an interesting artile in the paper about how unprepared our kids are in college:
    http://www.contracostatimes.com/news/ci_19526032

  • Doctor J

    @Just J #6 — You’re right — the message doesn’t say anything about “outside” — just says “counselors” and “district staff”. A good question to ask tonight. They could have scheduled a parents meeting for last night [Sunday] to help the parents prepare the children to come to school today but they waited until last night to make the announcement. I wonder if there was a higher rate of absences today than normal ? One thing we have to remember is that all the children of DVMS are secondary victims, and some of them will be affected more than others. These are kids going through puberty — their emotions can be all over the board.

  • anon

    I am very disappointed it took until late afternoon Sunday to even address us. I know they needed time to get their ducks in a row, and they may want to resume “normal” as quickly as possible, but I can’t even imagine how any kids are getting their work done today. It has to be numero uno topic of conversation . I too would’ve welcomed a meeting Sunday evening before classes resumes, and I like Just J’s idea of grade level assemblies with parents invited.

    Guess we’ll see tonight. And it’s not just secondary “victims” at the middle school, all of my kids had Mr. Cottrell, many kids are friends with this girl at the high school, this has far reaching implications.

  • Doctor J

    @Anon #8 I agree 100% with you. I am sorry if I gave the impression that only current DVMS students are affected. And its not just students — its parents and teachers too, and lets please have some sympathy also for the Cottrell family. It leaves all of us shaking our heads.
    You’re right. Let’s see how its handled tonight.

  • Theresa Harrington

    Here’s our online story about the district’s response: http://bit.ly/vrhjIl
    We will update the story if there are new developments.

  • Doctor J

    CDE provides a dynamite website on Coping with Tragedy with helps for educators and parents and students. Don’t miss this one ! http://www.cde.ca.gov/ls/ss/cp/tragedy.asp

  • Doctor J

    Does MDUSD have a Crisis Response Team as the article recommended by CDE suggests ? Its about time BEFORE the next crisis. “Crisis response, as it pertains to the school environment, is a proactive, organized and well thought out plan to a crisis situation that has adversely affected many individuals in a school district, including students, faculty and administrators. The primary goals of crisis response are 1) to prevent a chaotic situation from escalating into a potentially catastrophic one, 2) to help those affected by the crisis to return, as quickly as possible, to pre-crisis functioning, and 3) to decrease the potential long-term effects of the crisis on functioning.” http://www.aaets.org/teacherguidelines.pdf

  • Theresa Harrington

    Here’s a new blog post about what happened at Diablo View MS today: http://bit.ly/uuPH1n
    At Superintendent Steven Lawrence’s request, I will not be attending tonight’s meeting, since parents may not be expecting the press to be present.
    However, I plan to follow up with him tomorrow to see how the meeting goes.

  • anon

    Theresa there was other press there. I’m surprised you would listen to him. It was a public meeting.

  • Theresa Harrington

    Thanks for letting me know. I believed his rationale was that parents might feel less inclined to speak openly if press was there and I didn’t want to intrude on the discussion. He thanked me for “being sensitive.”
    However, since other press attended, it appears that parents may not have been as concerned about reporters listening to the conversation has he imagined they would be.

  • anon

    Uh, no, Theresa, there was no concern, and in fact, you should know that most parents would’ve wanted this documented. Unfortunately as soon as I saw Rolen there I knew much would be revealed. I think the real story here is small town rumor mill. All these parents NOW saying they knew this for years, THEY are the ones who should be ashamed for not coming forward, and stop blaming the district for not knowing. Everyone always thinks ‘someone else will speak up.’ So Clayton, look in the mirror. But having said that, I had kids in Cottrells, a daughter who TA’d for him, and have been in the DV community 7 years. Never heard ANY of what is coming out now. So what does that prove? Clayton moms are idiots? Or we just like to keep our secrets until it’s too late? In fact, unless it comes out more kids were involved, I am really thinking this is one INCREDIBLY huge error in judgement and this “relationship” with this teen was mutual, though YES I know a teen can’t legally consent, teens do have sex, and some even have fantasies about teachers. The teacher should know better, should’ve done better – but it doesn’t make him a Sandusky raping 10 year olds in a shower! He will get what he deserves for this crime , it’s not up to us in Clayton to keep making this story worse than it already is. Talk to your kids. If this made a family step up and talk to their middle schoolers about this stuff, then BRAVO because you’re way behind!

  • anon

    darn, …. as soon as I saw Rolen there I knew NOT much would be revealed. Dang cold fingers!

  • Theresa Harrington

    We will be following this issue with another story today. I plan to talk to Superintendent Lawrence about last night’s meeting.
    But, if anyone else who was there would like to speak “on the record” about the district’s response, please contact me at 945-4764 or tharrington@bayareanewsgroup.com.
    Thank you.

  • Wait a minute

    So Stevie Lawrence deliberately excludes Theresa but not other members of the press?

    This is very telling IMHO.

  • Doctor J

    Did I understand correctly — NO trained counselors were on campus Monday as promised in the Principal’s verbal message Sunday night ? And Lawrence called it the district’s “crisis team” — OMG, a few administrators that volunteered on Sunday afternoon because they didn’t have any other meetings planned. What a crock ! Lets get to the TRUTH. The district doesn’t have a Crisis Plan. The district doesn’t have a Crisis Team. This was all shoot from the hip. Then in Monday night meeting Lawrence flip flops and says he won’t send crisis counselors without checking with his staff ? This event happened on Friday at noon. What was he doing for 3 1/2 days ? No wonder he excluded the CC Times — he doesn’t want the TRUTH to come out.

  • anon

    According to my son, Bannister and another person (possibly a counselor) went to his class. Spoke for about 1 minute and said they can get help if they need it , but they didn’t say when, where or how. I do agree with the one parent that said it isn’t appropriate to keep going and going and going with this. Please tell the kids where there is anonymous help. Tell the parents too. But they don’t need to create special counseling sessions throughout the rest of the week for kids which seemed to be what others were suggesting. Some kids are FINE! Most kids will do fine with assurances and a frank discussion from their own parents now, not continuing to have the inept school district counsel their kids. Think about it! Parents , YOU talk to your kids. The school addressed it the way they’re going to address it, stop pushing for more. He will not return to teaching, you do not have to explain in detail what O**L CO******* is, or any of the other charges. (yes one parent wanted to actually know what she should call it!) Speak openly and honestly to your kids, your kids already hear it at school. You don’t have to go through the charges with them. You only need to reassure them they are safe, the school is taking precautions, that they can come to you for anything, and YOU will answer any questions they have.

  • Doctor J

    @Anon #21 EVERY parent at Diablo View and probably every school should be provided the link on Parent Guidelines for Crisis Response. Please pass it around. Lawrence and his staff don’t even know what resources CDE provides. He is pathetic. And apparently none of his staff do either.
    http://www.aaets.org/parentguidelines.pdf

  • Doctor J

    CDE Web Link on Coping with Tragedy
    http://www.cde.ca.gov/ls/ss/cp/tragedy.asp

  • Theresa Harrington

    We’re working on a story about the governor’s budget and I’m looking for a community college student’s reaction to $10/unit fee increase starting in January. Please call me at 925-945-4764 if you would like to comment on this.
    Thanks.

  • anon

    the Patch just reported that Cottrell is now facing 20 counts.. and needs to get an attorney before he enters a plea… hearing rest to later in December. Theresa, was the Times at the hearing?

  • Theresa Harrington
  • Theresa Harrington

    FYI, the district has canceled the Parent Advisory Council meeting that had been scheduled on Wednesday.

  • Nextset

    What a wonderful teaching moment.

    1) Sex is for adults, not kids.

    2) There are penalties for illegal activity (or being accused of same). It starts with being perp marched out of your job in shackles.

    3) You have a right to an attorney, etc etc.

    4) Now back to your work.

    End of problem.

    In a large school district you are just going to have to expects arrests of students and staff on occasion across the school year. Maybe there will be a conviction, maybe not. This one doesn’t look good.

    I think the kiddies will survive this experience just fine. The school needn’t overreact. I don’t think grief counseling is called for. They should get a reasonable explanation of the legal process without explicit comment as to the accusations in this case. Like I said, in a large district you have to expect something generally like this to occur. Sometimes it’s stealing, sometimes it’s DV, sometimes it’s drugs. Life goes on and there is work to do. Move on.

    The school certainly should not have the kiddies allowed to obsess over the incident or discuss on campus who did what with who. But the protocol of what happens when accusations are made should be made known (ie it’s turned over to the police and the school counsel and they do their jobs – end of story).