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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

For years, a teacher groomed girls for sex

Matt Drange’s high school journalism teacher was a cut-up who always had time to hang out with students. Especially teenage girls from troubled families. His beloved teacher repeatedly groomed students for sex, was reported and got away with it for years, reports Drange in Business Insider.

Xitlalic Palacios, Rosemead High Class of ’22, told the El Monte school board that “the public is owed an explanation or an apology” for the failure to protect students from a predatory teacher.  Photo: El Monte Union High School District/YouTube

Finally, Eric Burgess was forced to resign from Rosemead High School, east of Los Angeles, for interfering with the investigation of his activities.

Bethany Barnes’ Oregonian story, “Benefit of the Doubt,” about a Portland teacher who was allowed to make sexual advances for years, inspired Drange to investigate Burgess and other teachers with dubious reputations.

Boundaries between teachers and students were blurred, he recalls. There were “teachers . . . known for inviting cheerleaders to sit on their lap between classes, attending prom with students who graduated the year before and reserving the front row for girls wearing skirts.”

I found that Burgess repeatedly groomed female students for sex. Two women said they had intimate relationships with him that became sexual soon after they graduated; a third told me it happened while she was still a student. Despite numerous red flags, school and district officials repeatedly missed opportunities to put a stop to Burgess’ behavior.

In April 2018, a memo was sent to the principal detailing the teacher’s sexual relationships with female students over 20 years. “The memo included dates, ID numbers of students who were aware of Burgess’ inappropriate behavior, and the names of five former students with whom he’d allegedly had sexual relationships,” writes Drange.

A year later, “when screenshots of sexually explicit messages Burgess had exchanged with a former student were posted to social media,” the principal removed Burgess from the classroom.

“Burgess was allowed to resign without admitting to any wrongdoing and continued to receive his salary for another six months,” reports Drange. The settlement agreement bars Burgess from working in the school district, but not elsewhere, and district officials agreed to provide a “content neutral” reference if Burgess applies for a teaching job in another district.

Burgess’ credential was revoked “because of misconduct” by the state credentialing agency, writes Drange, but “he will be eligible to apply for reinstatement in August.”

The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department has opened an investigation of sexual abuse by Rosemead High teachers, reports Drange in a follow-up story.

When I was in school (1957 to 1970), I knew almost nothing about my teachers’ private lives. Teachers did not talk about their spouses, much less their relationships. I don’t think they talked about their children. We all had our own parents and were not in need of father or mother figures at school.

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