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In November 2013, four eighth grade students at Willow School in San Ysidro told an assistant principal that they felt uncomfortable with the way their social science teacher looked at their legs, breasts and bottoms in class.
One student said she bent over to tie her shoe in his class when she turned around and saw the teacher, Jimmy Delgado, staring at her bottom. A week later, she said she was sitting at her desk in class when she noticed he was staring directly at her breasts. She told her friends about the incidents and one said, ”Yeah, he’s like that” and another friend said he looked at her inappropriately, too.
A second student said once while she was walking around the classroom, Delgado stopped to stare at her legs. She said her friends in the class also witnessed him stare at her legs. She said as a result of those interactions, she felt extremely uncomfortable in his presence and that being in his classroom “creeps her out.”
Another student said she was getting ready to leave Delgado’s class for lunch when she saw him staring at another female student’s bottom. She said she thought the staring was inappropriate, and that she quickly left the classroom to avoid his gaze.
The district placed Delgado on paid administrative leave for nearly a year to investigate the girls’ claims. The investigation corroborated their accounts.
It wasn’t the first time students had reported Delgado’s staring at their bodies made them feel uncomfortable – and it wouldn’t be the last. Nor was it the last time that the San Ysidro School District placed Delgado back in a classroom after it found allegations he looked at female students inappropriately to be true, records released to Voice of San Diego through a public records request show.
After one of many probes into Delgado’s conduct, school officials’ solution was to transfer one of the students who’d complained – and to keep Delgado in the classroom.
Delgado continues to be employed by San Ysidro School District in the educational services department. Francisco Mata, a spokesman for the San Ysidro School District, said he has been in a non-classroom assignment since September 2017.
Delgado’s tenure in the district shows that sometimes the best solution school officials can conjure for a problem educator is to give him a new job.
In October 2008, the San Ysidro School District received complaints that Delgado was looking inappropriately at female students at Ocean View Hills School.
A school psychologist looked into the complaints. Those students said that Delgado made them uncomfortable in class because of the way he looked at them. The district says it investigated the matter, and doesn’t have any record of discipline given to Delgado in the matter.
Five years later, in September 2013, Delgado was reassigned to teach seventh and eighth graders at Willow School.
Delgado wrote in a letter to Voice of San Diego that he was transferred involuntarily to Willow School as a retaliatory move for reporting to the FBI that a former district superintendent was burning documents against a court order. (That San Ysidro School District superintendent was later incarcerated, and various board members resigned.)
“They put me in a school site where these allegations began,” he wrote. “If the district had followed the law, I would not be in this tenuous situation. The previous district Governance retaliated against me after I became whistleblower. They gave me an involuntary transfer without due process.”
Two months into teaching there, the group of four eighth grade students came forward with their leering accusations.
In response, interim superintendent George Cameron issued Delgado a notice of unprofessional conduct for inappropriately staring at female students, yelling at students and discourteous treatment to students and parents.
The notice specified that he could be dismissed from the district if the behavior continued.
It reads (emphasis ours): “As evidenced by the multiple reports of unprofessional conduct on your part, it is clear that you engage in highly inappropriate conduct in your classroom and that you do not provide them a safe learning environment. Your inappropriate behavior has a detrimental impact on instruction and the education program because students in your classroom feel uncomfortable and unsafe in your presence. Instead of focusing on instruction, these students are focused on avoiding your inappropriate staring.”
The district’s letter and records released to Voice of San Diego also highlight a number of complaints of misconduct against Delgado dating back to 2004.
In 2004, a student at San Ysidro Middle School reported that she wanted to be moved from Delgado’s classroom after he assigned her to grade papers for him. In response, the district issued Delgado a disciplinary note. In a letter to the district, Delgado said he only allowed the student to assist him with paperwork because he noticed that several boys in the classroom kept trying to “flirt” with her. He wrote that by involving her in the work, he hoped to help alleviate the situation, records show.
One parent reported that during the 2012-2013 school year, Delgado physically yanked the shoulder of their child who had an injured collarbone. The report says that as a result, the student suffered pain and was afraid to return to his classroom.
At the beginning of the 2013-2014 school year, a number of parents reported that Delgado was verbally abusive to students, which created a hostile learning environment, according to district records.
The district placed Delgado on paid administrative leave as it looked into all complaints against him, then reassigned him to teach first graders at Vista Del Mar Elementary in 2014.
One year later, Delgado requested a move to San Ysidro Middle School. That request was approved, and Delgado was assigned to teach seventh and eighth graders there.
It didn’t take long before more complaints surfaced.
Between September 2015 to January 2016, several students at San Ysidro Middle School reported that Delgado made them feel uncomfortable when he stared at their bodies. Many said they noticed Delgado stared at their friends’ bodies, too.
Three seventh grade students first reported to a school principal that Delgado looked at students’ private parts during class, investigation records show.
Those students and others interviewed in an investigation said that Delgado looked at their or their friends’ breasts, bottoms and legs, got close to them and made them feel uncomfortable, according to investigative records.
“In 4th period (Mr. Delgado’s class) we started noticing that Mr. Delgado looked at girls … So we tested it out to see if it was true and it was,” an eighth grader wrote in January 2016.
“I went to throw the trash away when I was walking I felt when Mr. Delgado was staring at my legs then I turned around he stared back at me for 5 seconds and he looked back and then he looked away and started using his phone,” an eighth grader wrote in February 2016.
“When I’m sitting in the back of the room Mr. Delgado sends me to the front and he stares at my front and back parts and yesterday that I was wearing shorts he stayed staring at my legs. He also stares at my friend,” she wrote in another statement.
Another student wrote that Delgado looked at her private parts and made her feel uncomfortable and she observed him staring at the bottoms of other female students on numerous occasions, but later retracted her statement.
Another student wrote that she sought a transfer from his class because Delgado looked at her body parts for prolonged periods.
Each of them said they felt uncomfortable being near Delgado, including in his classroom. Each said they had female friends who also felt Delgado was “creepy” and made them uncomfortable.
The girl who later retracted her statement did so after being confronted by a school principal, Rouba Smith, who said she’d interviewed other students who did not notice any behavior that made them uncomfortable, according to records of the investigation.
The student’s mother later contacted Smith and said that her daughter only retracted her statement because she felt intimidated, records show. The mother said she was aware Delgado was accused of the same behavior at another school within the district, and suggested he should be dismissed from his position.
Smith determined that some of the complaints were motivated by one student who told the other students that Delgado was looking at them inappropriately. Rouba later transferred that student out of Delgado’s class and determined there was no cause for further action against Delgado since the student retracted her statement, records show.
Days after the first reports, two other girls came forward with complaints against Delgado after hearing from that student that she felt forced to recant the complaint, records show. Those students and others interviewed in the investigation said that they either noticed Delgado treat girls differently than boys in class, noticed him look at girls’ body parts or felt uncomfortable in Delgado’s class because of the way he looked at them, records show.
One student raised a concern that Delgado might be taking pictures of students during class when she noticed that he would have his personal cellphone raised and pointed in her direction. An investigator who later scanned Delgado’s phone did not find pictures of seventh or eighth graders, but did find headshots of first graders taken during end-of-the-year celebrations. Delgado said he did not find those to be inappropriate.
The district placed Delgado on paid administrative leave and outsourced the investigation to a private company called The Titan Group. After interviewing students, witnesses and Delgado, an investigator substantiated the allegations.
A lunchtime monitor told investigators that once she was having a conversation in the lunch area when a female student walked by. She said Delgado stopped talking, and that she observed him looking at the student’s bottom area. She said he was distracted to the point that when she tried to resume the conversation, he had to ask her what the two had been talking about.
Delgado wrote in a letter to VOSD sent through his attorney, “the lunchtime supervisor is advanced in age and I believe that her age causes her to conduce [sic] in senior citizen moments … On many occasions’ [sic] teachers witness students doing inappropriate things and turn away from who they are talking with and bring it to their attention. I think the lunchtime supervisor may have misinterpreted the moment as a result of her age.”
The district issued Delgado a warning letter in September 2016, despite the previous 2013 notice that a re-offense could result in dismissal. The letter calls his conduct insensitive, inappropriate and unprofessional. It directed Delgado to complete a sexual harassment prevention training. He was warned not to use his personal cellphone during class and not to stare students.
Delgado returned to San Ysidro Middle School and continued teaching until September 2017.
Delgado denied to investigators all allegations regarding him staring at students in a deviant manner and said he never touched students inappropriately or had inappropriate conversations with them, according to the investigation records.
Delgado said he believes the 2015 accusations were rooted in a rumor that he was fired from Willow Elementary for being a “pervert.” He said he suspected that part of the problem was that he needs eyeglasses and that students may have misinterpreted his attempts to focus on them as staring, according to the investigation records.
Delgado admitted that he often made one of the girls who reported the inappropriate staring switch seats during class to keep her focused, “because the boy students often talked with her and kept her off task,” according to the investigation records.
In total, Delgado was disciplined twice for looking at students inappropriately over a 20-year span as a teacher in the San Ysidro School District. He was also disciplined for yelling at students, for using his personal cellphone and browsing on Facebook during class time and for enlisting students to do a teacher’s work during instructional time. In total, San Ysidro school administrators shuffled Delgado between four schools in the district six different times (at least one of those times was at Delgado’s request).
Delgado wrote to Voice of San Diego that The Titan Group’s investigation of the 2015-2016 claims should have been ruled inconclusive because it lacked qualitative research methodologies and was based on rumors. He said he has been the victim of gossip and misperceptions by students who were affected by hearsay.
“The student’s herd [sic] something from one student and then felt ‘uncomfortable’ and then developed a narrative toward me,” he wrote. “I do not blame the students for reacting like eighth graders when they are older, they will realize the damaged they caused and will have a different perspective. Gossip was rampant towards me at this school site because of eighth graders not being able to differentiate the long-term damage they cause and will have a different perspective.”
Voice of San Diego requested records of substantiated incidents of sexual misconduct by employees from every school district in San Diego County including San Ysidro School District, in 2017. San Ysidro did not provide records on Delgado or any other employees – it said it had no records responsive to the request.
When contacted for this story, San Ysidro district officials said they didn’t provide Delgado’s records at the time because they didn’t categorize his case as “sexual.”
Correction: An earlier version of this post incorrectly referred to Delgado’s transfer to a district office role as a promotion. He is still classified as a teacher. The San Ysidro School District declined to provide information about his role prior to publication despite multiple inquiries.