Tenaya chief under fire

Austen Thibault, The Union Democrat

Tenaya Elementary School Principal Susan Moffitt is at the center of a controversy surrounding her alleged failure as a school administrator in Tracy to report suspicions a teacher was molesting children in his classroom.

Darrell Golden, a former fourth-grade teacher at Anthony Traina Elementary School, was indicted by a criminal grand jury in San Joaquin County last week on 33 counts of child molestation allegedly involving a dozen children. He's accused of inappropriately touching or otherwise abusing students in his classroom between 2006 and 2012. Golden has pleaded not guilty.

He was arrested and charged in August after a school district employee in November 2012 allegedly witnessed him inappropriately touching a girl in his classroom and alerted police.

But according to statements made by administrators to a San Joaquin County criminal grand jury, school officials were alerted to similar allegations against Golden as long ago as 2006 but did not inform law enforcement officials.

Failing to report allegations of child abuse can violate the state's "mandatory reporter" law. The law requires school administrators and teachers - as well as psychologists, firemen, police officers, etc. - to report any reasonable suspicion of child abuse.

Neither the San Joaquin County District Attorney's Office nor the Big Oak Flat-Groveland Unified School District appear interested in taking action against any of the school's administrators.

DA's Office spokesman Robert Himelblau said there is a general statute of limitation of 1 year on prosecuting misdemeanors.

Dave Urquhart, superintendent of the Big Oak Flat district, said the district doesn't intend to take any action either.

"That issue doesn't pertain to us and we will carry on as we have," he said.

However, the failure to report suspicions to law enforcement is the basis of a lawsuit filed in San Joaquin County Superior Court by the parents of one alleged victim.

Moffitt, who was principal at Traina until 2012 when she accepted the job at Tenaya, is among administrators named in the July lawsuit.

It claims the school and administrators failed to adequately investigate allegations by parents and others against Golden.

Former BOFGUSD board member Lillian Cravens, however, said she thinks Moffitt should be fired.

"She's supposed to report that," Cravens said. "She had to have known. Principals know everything."

Former BOFGUSD Board President Lori West said she didn't know enough about the case to comment on it. But she said of Moffitt, "When I have seen her in action, I have always seen a deep concern about the children."

"She asked for fencing so no one could see children," West added.

Jefferson School District had no comment besides a statement issued after Golden's arrest explaining that the school was cooperating with authorities. The statement also included a message from Superintendent Jim Bridges.

He said, "Our families entrust us every day with the safety and well-being of their children. We take this responsibility very seriously, and we will never tolerate any action by any school district employee that puts student safety at risk."

Moffitt did not return numerous phone calls seeking comment.

The Union Democrat
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