When Pedro Tepoz-Leon applied to be a teacher’s aide in Long Beach, California, he admitted a conviction for beating up a former girlfriend. He was hired. After all, it was only a misdemeanor, though he’d broken his girlfriend’s jaw and eye socket and detached her retina. When he was graduated from college and applied to be a teacher, he admitted the conviction again. He was hired as a Spanish teacher and coach. One of his students, Mayra Mora-Lopez, became his new girlfriend and moved in with him as a 19-year-old senior. Then he beat her up.
(Principal Sandy) Blazer called Mora-Lopez out of summer classes, saw the injuries for herself and coaxed the truth out of her: She and Tepoz-Leon were a couple, and during a fight at their apartment, he had slammed her head into a wall and left her limbs marbled with bruises and her forehead visibly injured, according to Patterson. Mora-Lopez could not be persuaded to turn him in.
Like most states, with the exception of Nevada and a few others, it is not against the law in California for a teacher to have sex with a student. It is against the law for an adult to have sex with a minor. Mora-Lopez was not under 18.
There seems wide agreement that Blazer knew nothing of the teacher’s criminal record. She testified in a deposition that she formally urged the district to fire Tepoz-Leon, Patterson said, but that someone at the district opted against it.
Instead, Patterson said, Blazer wrote a letter instructing the teacher to never be alone with a student, and Tepoz-Leon signed it on July 26, 2002.
A few months later, Tepoz-Leon murdered Mora-Lopez. After his conviction, he committed suicide in prison.