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Perhaps the most infuriating piece of Kayla Jimenez’s story this week on a San Ysidro teacher who racked up complaints from young girls at several different schools, but was allowed to continue teaching and then given a job in the district office, is not the reminder that predatory educators virtually never get fired.

No, the most maddening revelation is actually that a principal appears to have bullied a young student into recanting her complaint that the teacher had been ogling her body. That student – not the teacher – was transferred, and administrators apparently washed their hands of the issue.

Though we’re living in an era in which #believewomen has become a rallying cry, our ongoing investigation into educator misconduct has driven home many times over that too often, people in positions of power refuse to believe young girls.

More than a dozen students at an Escondido Middle School complained that a teacher there was staring at their bodies and otherwise making them feel uncomfortable. No one acted – until finally, one student reported that same teacher had raped her inside an empty classroom. All of the girls who’d previously reported his actions were told to adjust their own appearances and behavior.

Anthony Atienza, a former teacher whom the Sweetwater Union High School District found “created a hostile and intimidating environment” through his “severe and pervasive” harassment of three young women, tried to seize on this tendency to write off girls’ complaints by telling investigators that the allegations against him came from “the imaginations of three troubled high school girls.” Luckily, in that instance, school officials found enough evidence to substantiate the girls’ claims. (He was still allowed to resign, and district officials agreed not to tell potential employers about his conduct.)

Perhaps one of the most heart-breaking details we’ve unearthed involves one of the first stories we published on a teacher who repeatedly touched girls in his classroom.

One former student told us that Martin Teachworth, a longtime La Jolla High School teacher who racked up numerous complaints during his career but who was never disciplined despite records showing school officials believed his conduct was criminal, made her feel anxious and “powerless” by constantly touching her in class.

That student never came forward to school officials because she first told her parents about Teachworth’s behavior – and they wrote it off as an accident.

If her own parents didn’t believe her, she reasoned, surely no one else would either.

What VOSD Learned This Week

It was quite a week for education stories. On top of Jimenez’s piece, Will Huntsberry revealed an apparent conflict of interest involving a charter school chain that has locations in San Diego. San Diego Unified’s school board president took a rare defiant stance against the superintendent. Speaking of San Diego Unified board members, Kevin Beiser is still on leave from his teaching job in Sweetwater now that classes have resumed, following allegations that he harassed and abused four men.

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The City Council approved new building restrictions near planned trolley stops on Morena Boulevard this week – but changes to the city’s plan secured by Councilwoman Jen Campbell highlight how contentious the years-long fight to build more housing near a massive transit investment has been. The Council also OK’d changes to the city’s inclusionary housing rules, a major priority of Council President Georgette Gómez. Gómez came on this week’s podcast to talk about her busy week.

Ry Rivard rounded up everything we know about the status of the SDSU Mission Valley stadium negotiations.

On the campaign front, we’ve got details on everyone’s fundraising hauls, and the story behind Assemblywoman Tasha Boerner Horvath’s surprising numbers.

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Waits for psychiatric patients to get a spot in long-term care programs are surging, jamming up the entire mental health care system.

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VOSD’s Maya Srikrishnan did a Reddit AMA about her reporting trip to Honduras, and we pulled out some of the highlights here.

What I’m Reading

Line of the Week

“She has made herself (with her mother’s encouragement) into the living embodiment of everything we say we value, in ordinary citizens as well as in our leaders. She cares. She participates. She works hard. She refuses to see herself as a victim. She’s everything America celebrates in theory and, as often as not, despises in practice.” – After 20 years, Tracy Flick is finally getting some justice.

Sara Libby

Sara Libby was VOSD’s managing editor until 2021. She oversaw VOSD’s newsroom and content.

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