In the second "failure to report" case in two decades brought by Santa Clara County prosecutors, O.B. Whaley Elementary School's former principal, Lyn Vijayendran, was convicted of failing to report suspected sexual abuse of a student by one of her teachers.
The jury forewoman said Vijayendran "dropped the ball." Another juror said the principal "stuck her head in the sand rather than pull the alarm. I think she didn't want this ugly thing to be true."
The eight-year-old girl's mother told Vijayendran that second-grade teacher Craig Chandler had acted "strangely" with her daughter, and showed the principal a suspicious stain on her daughter's jacket. Vijayendran then interviewed the girl who provided vivid details of her strange encounter with Mr. Chandler.
Vijayendran testified that Mr. Chandler "appeared forthright" when he told her that blindfolding a second-grade girl, telling her to lie on the floor, and putting a salty liquid in her mouth while they were alone in the classroom was part of a lesson plan about Helen Keller.
Vijayendran's decision to conduct her own investigation, instead of reporting the incident to authorities as the law requires of mandatory reporters, resulted in her criminal conviction and allowed Mr. Chandler to molest another student a few months later.
Under California law, school districts are required to train their educators how to recognize and report suspected child abuse. While the law provides an exception a school district may simply write a letter explaining why training was not provided jurors said the Evergreen School District shared some responsibility in this case.
"I think there were comments made that over a 20-year period, that people from the teachers all the way up to the principals all the way up to HR that they've received no training on mandatory reporting," said juror Kathy Ericksen. Juror Susan LaGassa agreed, "Educators need to know that this is unacceptable."
"The bigger picture," said prosecutor Alison Filo, "is we want mandated reporters to understand to always err on the side of caution and report, never investigate."