South El Monte teacher arrested on suspicion of molesting students

Afifth-grade teacher in South El Monte has been arrested on suspicion of inappropriately touching students, and investigators are trying to determine whether there are other potential victims, authorities said.

Joseph Baldenebro, 54, was arrested Wednesday and accused of multiple counts of molesting children and lewd or lascivious acts involving children, according to a Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department news release. He is being held on $404,000 bail.

He is accused of inappropriately touching female students between the ages of 8 and 11 in the classroom and on school grounds, according to the news release.

Baldenebro is a teacher at Miramonte Elementary School in the Mountain View School District. He has been employed in the district for almost 21 years, said district spokeswoman Michele Earle.

He has been out of the classroom and on administrative leave since May 15, when the school’s principal notified the district that there was a report of an incident between him and a student at the school, Earle said. The district contacted law enforcement at that time.

A counseling team was at the school after Baldenebro was removed in May, and “we have a counseling team at the school right now for any kids who need to talk or are affected by his removal,” Earle said.

This is a different Miramonte Elementary School from the L.A. Unified School District campus of the same name that was struck by a similar scandal. The LAUSD in 2014 paid out about $139 million to dozens of families whose children said they were victims of sexual abuse at the hands of teacher Mark Berndt. Berndt pleaded no contest in 2013 to 23 charges of lewd conduct, including feeding children his semen in what he called a tasting game. He was sentenced to 25 years in prison.

The Sheriff’s Department said it believes there may be more victims. Anyone with information should call the sheriff’s Special Victims Bureau at (877) 710-5273.

Mountain View Supt. Lillian Maldonado French said in a statement that the district was “shaken by these allegations,” but “Mountain View School District is committed to creating and fostering an environment where its students, faculty and staff have the resources they need to achieve academic excellence in a safe and secure learning environment. This commitment is unwavering.”

 

 

Source: LA Times