Leo Benet-Cauchon, a Manteca Unified special education teacher, has been suspended with pay while an investigation is ongoing for allegations of “inappropriate relations to students.”
That information, and the specifics of the allegations were not culled from the results of the investigation that the Manteca Police Department is conducting. The details came from Benet-Cauchon himself during the public comment portion of Tuesday night’s Board of Trustees meeting.
And the alleged victim’s mother is siding with Benet-Cauchon.
“Did I let a student sit on my lap? That’s true. Did I kiss a student on the cheek? That’s true,” Benet-Cauchon said.
“Yes, I carried a student who asked to be lifted. I did allow a student to sit on my lap who asked to sit. I did kiss a student on the cheek who said, ‘kiss.’ This is a student with severe autism. He is just starting to use more words,” he continued.
He went on further to explain, “It is my training and experience to support his emerging language by respecting his requests. Then we slowly shape a carry to a walk, a sit on to sit by, and a kiss to a handshake. This is a classroom where students need to be toileted. It is hands-on.”
Why did he decide to address the board regarding this matter? Benet-Cauchon explained that he did so after consulting with his attorney.
“My lawyer informs me I am free to address the board on this concern. I am doing so because the board is responsible for the policies which guide us. I want this conversation about how to care for students with significant challenges to be held in the open,” he said.
He added, “Everything that I am accused of doing is within the scope of my professional ethics, MUSD past practice, and always follows the direction of the parents and IEP (Individualized Education Program) team.”
He urged the district officials and trustees to see a “speedy resolution” to the allegations under which he is being investigated, and thus allow him “to do my job nurturing the growth of these exceptional children.”
Benet-Cauchon said he is aware of the rules because “my principal gave me the guidelines” but that he does not want to shut-down “a severely autistic child.”
It was his understanding that the district’s investigation into his actions has been “passed on to the Manteca Police,” he said, adding, he is more concerned about how the allegations and investigation are affecting his wife “who is seriously ill” than anything else.
He was also baffled as to why the investigation had to go beyond the district level of investigation while he is on paid leave of absence.
Benet-Cauchon then read a letter from the mother of the child he is alleged to have had inappropriate relations.
“Terry and Leo are the only ones available and open to help with the care of my son while I work so I can provide for my family. How is an investigator telling me I cannot continue with my options of care otherwise my son will be removed from my home and placed in a foster care system? This is unacceptable! Ridiculous! Baseless! And extremely irritating that, in the first place, the district failed to communicate the situation and violated my rights as a parent to be informed of such situation,” read part of Sharon Anaya’s letter.
“If the district would have contacted me about such investigation, things would still be in a district level and a meeting could have been scheduled to address any issues or concerns,” Anaya stated.
Asked for comment about the investigation, and for further details about the incident, Deputy Superintendent Clark Burke said he could not comment on the matter because it’s a personnel matter and is thus confidential.