Part of the Bay Area News Group

Mt. Diablo school district interim superintendent responds to arrest of Woodside Elementary teacher on suspicion of child abuse

By Theresa Harrington
Saturday, June 29th, 2013 at 1:21 pm in Concord, Education, Mt. Diablo school district.

According to Concord police, Woodside Elementary teacher Joseph Andrew Martin, who taught fourth and fifth grades at the Concord school, has been arrested on suspicion of repeatedly sexually abusing a child. Here is our story about the arrest:
http://www.contracostatimes.com/breaking-news/ci_23565623/concord-elementary-school-teacher-suspected-sexually-abusing-student.

This morning, the Times received the following statement from John Bernard, interim superintendent of the Mt. Diablo school district, about the arrest:

“The Mt. Diablo Unified School District is saddened and disturbed by the recent arrest of a teacher at Woodside Elementary School in Concord.

Our staff has been working with the Concord Police Department since this was brought to our attention in late April 2013.

The teacher in question was removed immediately and has not returned to the campus.

While we cannot comment on the on-going investigation, our prayers and supportive thoughts are with the victims and their families.

We strongly encourage anyone with information about this investigation to contact the Concord Police Department.”

A hotline has been established at 925-603-5836 for those who may have additional information or for any potential additional victims.

Are you satisfied with the district’s response?

[You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.]

  • soooo frustrated

    Why start trouble by asking if people are satisfied with the district response. Anything to fuel the fire against MDUSD. It seems the teacher was removed from his position and the district is working with CPD. This is a horrible event, but why encourage people to trash the district, yet again?

  • Con

    Respectfully, I have to agree with the first post here. While I generally like and appreciate the work you do, Ms. Harrington, this seems like an invitation to bring on the negativity.
    Right now, the only wrongdoing that’s been brought to light is that of the teacher in question. If it turns out that some other party is responsible in some way, or could have done something to prevent this teacher’s actions, then by all means point the finger and hold them responsible too. Right now, it seems as if the district is doing what they can to help in a tough situation.

  • anon

    @1, I agree with your sentiment about not using this unfortunate incident as reason to criticize MDUSD. These things are tragic but sadly, happen on occasion in all districts, especially large ones. Let’s hope the CCC DA acts swiftly to charge and prosecute this teacher.

  • Theresa Harrington

    I was not trying to invite criticism of the district. Obviously, many people are satisfied with the district’s response. It is a question that allows for a yes or no answer.

  • Vindex

    Please. Ms Harrington was simply asking a question. Give her a break. She is a reporter. Yes, I am satisfied with the Districts response. It was heartfelt, tactful, and offered help. Well done

  • Flippin’ Tired

    Already this interim superintendent is communicating more than Dr. Lawrence. I am quite pleased with the actions and information.

  • Fed Up and Then Somje

    [NOTE: This comment has been edited to delete references to specific employees]

    Yes, he does seem to be of another mind-set but he is not staying and the worst of the worst managers … These people are just playing a waiting game until this Supe leaves so they can baffle the new one and we are back at square one unless he is savvy and willing to touch management. This one is better, yes, but still not addressing the management issues. They still have the “managers are a product of the workers” stance.

  • Theresa Harrington
  • Theresa Harrington

    Martin has pleaded not guilty: http://www.contracostatimes.com/breaking-news/ci_23592763/concord-elementary-schoolteacher-pleads-not-guilty-91-counts

    Interesting that the board vote to terminate Lawrence and Rolen’s contracts happened the same day as the police report, after the board received a report in closed session regarding a “personnel matter.”

  • Concerned Parent

    What a worthless response from the superintendent. When the teacher was arrested at Diablo View, the district had a meeting for parents the very next school day. They sent out a phone message to parents. They had crisis counselors for students. The old superintendent that got fired handled that situation much better than this guy. The new school board members are supposed to be all about bringing in a new era of transparency and communication. Where are they? Why aren’t they telling us what’s going on? Why hasn’t MDUSD communicated with Woodside parents????? I heard the interim superintendent’s daughter was a principal at Woodside. Is that true? Is there a conflict of interest?

  • Annonagain

    Yes did some hunting an it is true . Jennifer Sachs was principal at Woodside supposedly during first complaints being filed years ago and swept under. And yes she is daughter of this new supt! Theresa there is a huge story here. I hope you get the details!

  • Anon

    The meeting at DV was all lip service. And the counselors were available because he was arrested on campus during the school day.
    I still don’t understand if this guy was removed in April or if it was end of school year?

  • Theresa Harrington

    AnnoNagain: We’re working in it. I encourage anyone who would like to share information about this with me on or off the record to call me at 945-4764. Board President Cheryl Hansen declined to comment, since the criminal investigation is ongoing.

  • Doctor J

    The district has put a “lid” on this arrest. Why? Massive potential liability and prosecution of mandated reporters who did not report plus the district. It is ironic that the district just got around to its mandated reporting training. My heart goes out to the victims. “10.Liabilities for Failure to Make A Required Report.
    A person who fails to make a required report is guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in jail and/or up to a $1000 fine, or both. (P.C. 11166(b)). He or she may also be found civilly liable for
    damages, especially if the child-victim or another child is further victimized because of the failure to report. (Landeros vs. Flood (1976) 17C.3d 399).”

  • Sue Berg

    Dr J, #14: What? The Times has reported that the district placed the teacher on leave and contacted the police when the complaint was made in April. As soon as that happened, the police were in charge of the investigation and district staff would not have been allowed to talk about it publicly. Eight weeks later, on June 27, the police filed charges, making the arrest. Based on Theresa’s story, above, Dr. Bernard sent out an announcement about the arrest the next day. Seems that the district did, in fact, follow mandated reporting procedures in this case. Clearly, the training worked.

  • Doctor J

    @Sue#15 If post #11 is true, and I don’t know that it is, at least one report was made 6 years ago to school authorities, but not reported to the CPS or the police authorities. Theresa reported that the charges involve 11 different children, now ages from 11-17, involving 91 counts. The prior failure to report by a mandatory reporter might subject the district to massive liability and put the mandatory reporter at risk. I would imagine that district legal counsel is pursuing a parallel investigation to determine potential liability.

  • Teacher

    How does anyone here know whether or not a CPS report was filed or not? Also, even if a report is made, CPS may not do anything about it based on circumstances and the information being reported.

    If MDUSD truly believed there was a “child molester” at one of their schools they would not continue to employ this person.

  • Con

    Just because a report might have been made doesn’t mean the district should have fired the man, a report could have been made, an investigation completed, and nothing happened. Remember that these predators cover the,selves very well, and if he was in good standing and the claims weren’t horrific, if there was no clear evidence….etc. we really don’t have enough info to blame anyone else right now..

  • Doctor J

    @Con#18 A required reporter must report when she/he has “reasonable suspicion”. The investigation is done by CPS or the police, not the school or district. Here is a whole primer from the CA Dept of Social Services, Office of Child Abuse Prevention. http://www.cdss.ca.gov/cdssweb/entres/forms/English/PUB132.pdf

  • Theresa Harrington

    Here’s a story about a Union City elementary teacher accused of sexually molesting students who was put on paid administrative leave in April, then upaid leave about a month later by board vote: http://www.contracostatimes.com/breaking-news/ci_23593453/union-city-elementary-teacher-pleads-not-guilty-student

    It’s unclear whether Martin has been paid during his leave.

  • Theresa Harrington

    A former Martin student and the family has sued the district, alleging officials ignored complaints against Martin made in 2009-10: http://www.contracostatimes.com/twitter/ci_23619460/lawsuit-alleges-mt-diablo-school-district-brushed-off

    According to the Contra Costa County schools directory, Michelle Batesole was principal at that time.

  • Doctor J

    @TH#21 “Katy bar the door”

  • Theresa Harrington

    I have left messages for Dr. Bernard, Jayne Williams and Cheryl Hansen, but have not heard back from any of them yet regarding the lawsuit.

    Interestingly, after the shooting in Newtown, the district was encouraging teachers to lock their doors and Board Vice President Barbara Oaks even suggested that all classrooms should have window coverings to keep intruders from seeing inside classrooms. But, this lawsuit alleges that an isolated classroom with at least one door that was often locked and windows that were obstructed may have contributed to an environment where back rubs and other inappropriate activities may have occurred outside the view of the rest of the school.

  • Theresa Harrington

    I just heard back from Jayne Williams. She said she was unaware of the lawsuit, since the district has not yet been served. She said the district has not received any claims related to this lawsuit or the charges filed by the district attorney. She said the police and DA are handling the criminal investigation and she had no response yet to the lawsuit, since she hadn’t yet seen it.

  • Theresa Harrington

    Here’s the updated story with the district’s initial response: http://www.contracostatimes.com/twitter/ci_23619460/lawsuit-alleges-mt-diablo-school-district-brushed-off

    As schools develop Professional Learning Communities, it’s my understanding that individual teachers are not supposed to work in isolation. Is there a working PLC at Woodside?

  • Theresa Harrington
  • g

    Unfortunately, in a sloppy rush to be ‘first in line at the trough’ the lawsuit repeatedly refers to him James Andrew Martin.

  • Theresa Harrington

    Yes, the first name is incorrect in several instances.

  • Theresa Harrington

    I just spoke to Dr. Bernard, who confirmed that Jennifer Sachs is his daughter. However, he said that would not affect the district’s participation in the investigation. He declined to comment on the lawsuit specifically, saying that is part of the investigation.

  • Just_My_Two_Cents

    I’m tired of hearing garbage (regarding Fiscal Services and Personnel) from a disgruntled employee that can’t get along with anyone.

  • Concerned Parent

    Was Barbara Oakes suggesting that windows should routinely be kept covered? What stupid idea.

    Sounds like a weak lawsuit.

    Theresa, Was the School Board aware of the molestation accusations at the time John Bernard was hired? Did they hire him knowing there was a conflict of interest? Does his daughter still work for MDUSD? How could they possibly keep him on as interim superintendent if his daughter was principal while Martin was there? This is an obvious conflict of interest that could have huge legal and financial consequences for MDUSD.

  • Theresa Harrington

    No, I don’t think Oaks was suggesting that windows should be routinely covered. But she wanted to be sure teachers had the ability to cover them quickly.

    Hansen has declined to comment on the allegations. However, the school board voted to dismiss Steven Lawrence and Greg Rolen the same day that the report was made to police and Martin was removed from the classroom. The closed session agenda says the board also received information about a “personnel issue” during that closed session. If the issue was related to Martin, then trustees did know at least about the initial allegation that led to the police report. However, they may not have known when they hired Bernard that the allegations stretched back to the time when Sachs was principal. That information didn’t come to light publicly until he was arrested at the end of June. Bernard was hired in May.

    I believe Jennifer Sachs currently works in the Pittsburg district as director of categorical programs: http://www.cccoe.k12.ca.us/edsvcs/catprograms/2012_13contactList.pdf. I don’t know where Michelle Batesole went. It’s my understanding Jenny Cronan will return as principal in the fall.

  • Doctor J

    @G#27 I agree with you — especially when he says he expects others will be joining the lawsuit. Jayne Williams also said “no claims” were filed with the district prior to the lawsuit being filed, apparently a legal requirement when suing a government entity.

    @TH#32 I believe, if my memory serves me, that Jen Sachs was promoted out of Woodside to the old Curriculum & Instruction as an assistant director, and then she became part of SASS as Assistant Director of Categoricals. When she left for Pittsburg Lorie O’Brien took her place. I may not have it exactly right but along those lines.

  • Theresa Harrington

    Yes, I think that’s about right. I know that Lori O’Brien replaced Jen Sachs in SASS as head of categoricals, after Sachs left to go to Pittsburg, right before MDHS teachers revealed that the school was in danger of losing its QEIA grant because it failed to meet the requirements.

  • Doctor J

    @TH#34 That’s when Lorie O’Brien “recalculated” MDHS QEIA requirements and shazam — then the district was able to apply for a waiver based on the recalculations. It was nothing short of miraculous. So Lorie has her first “miracle” — she only needs one more for sainthood. :-)

  • anon

    There are many ???s here. Did either Sachs or O’Brien know about the concerns? If so, they were legally required to contact CPS, and should have also contacted the superintendent. If they superintendent knew, he had a legal obligation to conduct an internal investigation. And a tort claim has to be filed before the lawsuit.

  • Doctor J

    @Anon#36 Why did you include Lorie O’Brien in your question ?

  • anon

    @36, only because there is so much not known. The lawsuit is brought by a child who was not molested, but was allegedly inappropriately touched in 2009-2010. I recall, and may be incorrect, that Sachs had already been promoted to curriculum and instruction at that point. Whether she had or had not, we don’t know all the causes of action in the complaint, and what knowledge has been attributed to district staff and administration before 09/10, during 09/10, and after 09/10.

    BTW, just as an interesting side note, Daniel Horowitz is the defense attorney and plaintiff’s lawyer whose wife was killed in the multi-million dollar home they were having built several years ago by an [apparently] emotionally disturbed teenage male. Horowitz has had some quite successful plaintiff verdicts.

  • anon

    @37, meant to write Batesole, not O’Brien, as principal in 09/10. Here’s an overview of the attorney who filed the case against MDUSD:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Daniel_Horowitz

  • Theresa Harrington

    FYI, I received an email yesterday from Board President Cheryl Hansen reiterating her previous comment. Here is what she wrote: “I can’t comment on an active, ongoing criminal investigation, and I would refer you to Jayne Williams, our interim general counsel, for any information.”

  • Doctor J

    @#40 I am not surprised by the statement — it makes sense in the best interests of the district. Nor will they comment on the civil case(s) for the same reasons — I would expect the district’s insurance company has been notified. I am sure the district is trying to determine if any district mandated reporters had “reasonable suspicion” and failed to report.

  • anon

    I still think one or more of these managers is going to go out in handcuffs one day. The BIG question will be:
    WHY WERE THE UPPER MANAGEMENT NOT FOCUSING ON THEIR MANAGERS, COMPLETELY OVERLOOKING PRACTICES AND BEHAVIORS WHILE CONSTANTLY TARGETING THE LITTLE PEOPLE? I just do not believe not one alert person saw anything odd. If so, they should not be making comments about what they ‘think’ might be happening in homes while they cannot spot problems under their noses. Big BIG upper management failure, as always, to address their management. TH, I have been out of town but still want to repost something I think is relevent. GET YOUR MANAGEMENT IN LINE AND YOU WON’T HAVE TO MICRO-MANAGER ANY MORE!!!!

  • anon

    Sorry, I meant I do not believe all these people never suspected anything odd with this individual. Any parents dragged into CPS issues might wonder how the schools can’t notice issues under their own nose. It is a disservice to the children. Is the district trying to squelch any people who saw odd behavior? Just don’t believe all these trained prof’nls suspected nothing.

  • anon

    [NOTE: This comment has been edited to delete references to specific employees]

    … I will relate somehting that shows what the Dent has become. … The predious posters ref to Sigmund Freud is not so far off. This is called Transference and is most certainly a red flag. … NO manager should make medical decisions or deny critical medical care. … cardiac, embolism, shock, seizures, et are very, very serious and time sensitive. Oxygen deprivation to the brain has a very limited window. Patients can be in excruciating pain and not be able to communicate. Conditions can go from serious to death. Death. Knowing the cause of a seizure does not mean you can control it. I would not work in an environment where I could have permanenet brain damage or die because of a managers decision to play dysfunctional parent and hide something. What if one of these employees has some type of an attack and the decision is made to let it go? Thisis, by far, one of the worst examples of dangerous, incompetant, heartless, decision-making I have ever heard of. I was appalled to hear about this … My God. …I am past appalled at this district. …
    http://wespeakfortheearth.tumblr.com/post/44263522114/bosses-refuse-to-call-ambulance-for-worker-severely

  • anon

    Dear TH,
    this is the item I wanted to repost because we are hearing about a breakdown of any stability in Fiscal. Again, I think they need to have a serious conversation regarding an employment situation at Comcast. I can tell you if a lawyer starts spending money on an investigator, they think there is something to be found. Should we get the egg-towel ready for District management?

  • OMG!!

    [This comment has been edited to delete unsubstantiated allegations]

    Dear Ms. Harrington, I know this is about that teacher but I am sitting here sobbing because I did not get paid as I was supposed to. I am so mad and so sick and tired of Payroll …. I do not know how many times I have been paid incorrectly or not at all and I am trying not to swear on this site. csea had it the worst …. . I am just shaking because I had a problem in June. why cant we have the county do our stuff? So so so so so sick of payroll …. . why do we keep this department?

  • OMG!!

    sorry, i think i might have hit this twice but my friend had his workers comp so screwed up he is asking workers comp to come in and review it. what would happen to an assistant who took care of kids like they take care of money?

  • http://yahoo Annie CSEA

    @OMG I do not know what you are talking about. Or who you think my buddy is. Did you call me with your problem? If not call me. I have fixed many a payroll problems. Just ask around. This is a volunteer job which I take very serious and spend a lot of hours doing. I do this because I don’t like the way people are treated. So, I suggest you call me and we’ll see what can be done. I can’t guess who you are or help if you don’t call.

  • Fog A sponn

    Sorry Annie, I agree, I don’t know this particular situation but many, many people have gone to csea and we all know who the problem person in payroll is. Do you know what the sailor term lifer means? Look it up. That manager is useless to talk to and you, yes you Annie, should have insisted our paycheck processing was removed from the generous lady in payroll or we should have been keeping track of every error every month and going to the board. It may be csea who goes to the teamsters before local 1. This woman may be someone’s little fixer but you need to step up getting us over to the county or paychex or another school district. don’t get hurt feelings because you have covered for her for years.

  • http://yahoo Annie CSEA

    I do not know who you are talking about. I have gone to payroll many times to get problems fixed. If people don’t call me I don’t know about their issues. And I don’t know about many. Yes, there are problems and as for as I know the ones I did where taken care of. I’m not the only one that gets calls and the other ones have not brought anything up to me. It doesn’t hurt my feeling. You can call anytime. I would like to get this cleared up.