The arrest of Lincoln Middle School teacher Thomas Beltran on May 3 on 14 counts of alleged child molestation has triggered the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District to review all their policies regarding child abuse and neglect.
School Board President Oscar de la Torre announced at the May 15 School Board meeting that the Board had voted unanimously in closed session to place Beltran on compulsory leave without pay until his legal outcome is determined.
Superintendent Dianne Talarico stated, “The issues that occurred at Lincoln Middle School have obviously impacted the entire School District.” She then outlined the steps the District has already taken to ensure student safety in classrooms including “conducting a District-wide assessment of visibility into classroom spaces” and “mandating the removal of anything obstructing the view into a classroom.” She also has appointed a committee that includes parents, District staff, and Board members to assist the District with reviewing and updating all related policies to child abuse and neglect.
Talarico also stressed, “We are continuing to implement the curriculum from the Rape Treatment Center at Santa Monica – UCLA Medical Center, “Road to Respect,” in the District’s middle schools and “Date Rape” in the high schools. Additionally, the District is working with the “Safety Ever After” program to provide safety workshops for principals and PTA presidents before the end of this school year. Three District elementary schools, Pt. Dume, Grant, and Franklin have already had assemblies given by this program. The District is also looking to identify other programs and agencies to assist us with these types of issues.
The Superintendent also noted that the District is taking immediate steps to examine the processes, procedures, and practices it uses to report and handle complaints of child abuse. As part of this, principals are being provided training on how to write up and report child abuse incidents with the District office and an incident form for this purpose has been created. The District is also examining their employee training for the required mandatory reporting of child abuse and neglect. They are also in the process of developing a way to document that an employee has received this annual training.
Lastly, Talarico mentioned that the District is providing parent training on child abuse and neglect at the school sites. This training is being provided to immigrant families through the English Learner Advisory Committees (ELAC) at the different school sites.
In other business the Board appointed Jessica Rishe as the new Principal of SMASH (Santa Monica Alternative School House). Ms. Rishe is in her twelfth year with the School District. She taught Kindergarten through 2nd grade at John Muir Elementary and at SMASH. Since 2006 she has worked part time as Assistant Principal at McKinley Elementary School.