For six months, the Mt. Diablo Unified School District has blocked access to public records about its mishandling of child abuse complaints involving an elementary-school teacher now facing felony charges.
It's time for trustees Cheryl Hansen, Barbara Oaks, Brian Lawrence, Lynne Dennler and Linda Mayo to end their stonewalling, follow the law and turn over the documents.
Parents, teachers and the rest of the community are entitled to know why district officials, after learning about abuse concerns in 2005, kept Joseph Andrew Martin in the classroom. Why they didn't notify police, as required under state law?
Much of the abuse is suspected to have occurred since then. Today, Martin faces 120 felony charges of lewd acts upon children younger than 14 and five charges involving children ages 14 or 15. A civil lawsuit and four civil claims have been filed against the district.
Children were harmed. Taxpayer funds have been put at risk. District personnel failed to follow reporting requirements and enabled abuse to continue. If ever a case demanded sunshine, this is it.
The criminal charges involve 13 former male students. According to one of the claims, Martin is accused of targeting young boys, many in his fourth and fifth grade classes at Woodside Elementary School.
Teachers found his classroom door locked. They saw students leaving as late as 8 p.m. One teacher discovered Martin and a boy in a closet. Over the years, at least five teachers and one parent complained to the principal, according to the claim.
The school district hired an outside attorney who conducted an investigation that found that the accusations "at least suggest the subject matter of potential child abuse." Yet no one notified police.
Instead, in 2006, the district only required that Martin keep his classroom door open, have more than one student in the room, and put distance between him and students -- conditions reportedly ignored as abuse continued.
Finally, this year, someone informed police. When they started investigating, the district's deputy counsel, Deborah Cooksey, at first tried to block their access to the 2006 investigation report. The district is required to notify police; instead, Cooksey threw up obstacles.
Now, in response to this newspaper's Public Records Act request, the district falsely argues that documents are protected by attorney-client privilege; they're not, and especially not when they've been shared with others. The district asserts that documents are personnel records, but that protection doesn't apply in cases when wrongdoing is found.
Trustees are blocking legitimate public access to records. The abuse cover-up continues.