Infinite tolerance

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.

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Comments

  1. nobody important says:

    This has to be the most sad and tragic story I’ve read on your site.

  2. And the temp agency won’t allow me to get a job as a data entry operator (or anything else) because I wrote a couple of bad checks in 1980 (no conviction at all for the misdemeanor – I just paid restitution).

    Yep that sounds about right.

  3. Damn. That really, really sucks. Love appears to stink and school districts suck. Great way to start the morning.

  4. And the saddest part is that native Spanish speakers aren’t exactly rare in Southern California–this clown was the best the district could do? If this girl had been my kid, I’d be suing the school district.

  5. Jim Thomason says:

    Bogie – Do you reveal this detail in your application, or does a background check reveal it? Without a conviction, I don’t think that you are under any obligation to divulge this, though I suppose that depends on the language of the question.

    BTW, I understand some states offer some form of absolvement for minor non-violent infractions like that, in the form of expunging the record. Maybe you could contact whichever state this happened in to look into that possibility.

  6. Walter Wallis says:

    I go with Jim – the worst they can do is fire you if they find out later. Just do a politician’s “I forgot.” – it works at the top.

  7. There was recently an issue here in which a coach was found to have had had sex with a student. She was 18 at the time but he was fired anyway because they have a rule in the city schools about that.

    I don’t understand how the previous beating was only a misdemeanor, and how such a violent person was hired to work with kids. As a previous commenter asked, are they really that hard up for Spanish teachers?

  8. Mark Odell says:

    After all, it was only a misdemeanor, though he’d broken his girlfriend’s jaw and eye socket and detached her retina.

    Not having read the (registration required) article, do I detect the smell of a plea-bargain here? If so, that just might be the root of this problem.

    Walter Wallis wrote: Just do a politician’s “I forgot.” – it works at the top.

    Bogie, most job applications I’ve seen ask specifically about felony convictions, not misdemeanors, unless the question has been modified recently.

  9. Walter Wallis says:

    As for the abuser, I am coming to the opinion we need a Devil’s Island for First time losers, and life without hope after a second violent crime. Ask me my opinion of the departure from sanity that marked the criminal justice system the past 50 years.

  10. "Dr." Caffeinated Curmudgeon, "Ph.D, Life Experience" says:

    bogie wrote: “And the temp agency won’t allow me to get a job as a data entry operator (or anything else) because I wrote a couple of bad checks in 1980 (no conviction at all for the misdemeanor – I just paid restitution).”

    Some states will, with specific exceptions for some crimes (usually violence), expunge misdemeanor convictions for all inquiries except official state inquiries, if defendant doesn’t get further convictions while serving sentence or probation for the first conviction.

    A civil compromise wouldn’t be a conviction in most states. The criminal case is dismissed. That’s why it is called “civil compromise”. A court record for any criminal proceeding on that may also be expungable. Check with a local criminal defense lawyer about what you can do to clear your record in your state. I could be wrong, but I think it likely you can.

    When a court record is expunged, a person has no obligation to report it to any civilian, although he does for certain government inquiries.

  11. Believe it or not, this post actually comes as a relief. I never knew Mayra but do know her roommate, who is good friends with my wife, so I knew of the abuse and the murder. The only thing I didn’t know, until now, was that Pedro finally did one thing right.