A fourth-grade teacher at Rosewood Avenue Elementary School who allegedly placed a plastic bag over a student’s head in class last month pleaded not guilty on March 13 to one felony count of child abuse.
The teacher, Thelmo Garcia, 37, faces up to six years in state prison if convicted. He allegedly placed the bag over the unidentified 10-year-old female student’s head during class on Feb. 5. He was arrested on March 11 at an undisclosed location away from the campus.
According to Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), administrators learned about the incident shortly after it occurred on Feb. 5 and removed Garcia from the campus while the Los Angeles Police Department conducted an investigation. The campus is located at 503 N. Croft Avenue, just southeast of La Cienega Boulevard and Melrose Avenue.
Garcia is on paid leave pending the outcome of court proceedings, according to LAUSD spokeswoman Gayle Pollard-Terry, who deferred to a statement issued by the district about the incident.
“We take these allegations very seriously. The district is fully cooperating with the LAPD investigation,” the statement read. “Crisis intervention counselors [were] at the school for any students who might be affected by the arrest. The safety of students is L.A. Unified’s highest priority.”
No further details about the circumstances of the incident were available. Information provided by the district about Garcia’s employment history indicated that he started with LAUSD in September 1999, and had previously taught at Central High School, and Gratts and Breed elementary schools. Garcia started teaching at Rosewood Avenue Elementary School in July 2011. No disciplinary measures are included in Garcia’s employment file, according to the LAUSD. He had met expectations during seven performance evaluations between 2003 and 2013.
Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Jane Robison said Garcia is scheduled to return to court on March 25 for a preliminary hearing.
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