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Two parents rally in support of teacher
Sharon Anaya, left, and Claudia Rufino, right, join Manteca Unified special ed teacher Leo Bennett-Cauchon during the parents rally Friday in front of the school district office on West Louise Avenue. Anaya is shown holding the placard prepared by parent Jennifer Landares who was unable to attend the rally because she could not find someone to care for her child. - photo by ROSE ALBANO RISSO

Next stop for embattled special ed teacher Leo Bennett-Cauchon is the Manteca Unified Board of Trustees meeting on Tuesday, March 3, where he plans to plead once more that he be reinstated to his teaching position at Veritas Elementary School.

Bennet-Cauchon, whose leave of absence with pay will reach the month-long milestone the day of the board meeting, and the parents who held a rally in front of the entrance to the district office on Friday did not receive any response to their request for a district official to “come out and meet” with them “to discuss the return of Leo (Bennett-Cauchon), Laura and Jingles to their primary classroom.” Superintendent Jason Messer was away that day attending a conference in San Diego.

Laura and Jingles are the two aides who worked with Bennett-Cauchon at Veritas Elementary School who, the parents say, were pulled out of Veritas and transferred to another school location after he was placed on leave of absence based on allegations of inappropriately touching a student. In the wake of the two aides being transferred, about half a dozen parents removed their children from the classroom in protest and are having them privately tutored until Bennett-Cauchon is reinstated to his job.

Only two showed up Friday and joined Bennett-Cauchon in his ongoing vigil and fasting as part of his continuing effort to meet with district officials to discuss his case. One of them was Sharon Anaya, the mother of 8-year-old Giovanni who is at the center of the allegations against Bennett-Cauchon. She said some of the parents were unable to attend the rally due to various personal reasons. Jennifer Landeros, for example, has said earlier that her attendance depended on whether she would be able to find someone to look after her child, since her husband is disabled. But she did make a sign for the rally which Anaya ended up holding.

“Jennifer is the only breadwinner in the family and cares for a disabled husband,” explained Anaya who went directly to the rally from her job in Modesto.

“I’m a very private person,” she said, but has decided to step up “because something wrong is happening and we have to share our stories with other parents.”

Claudia Rufino, Anaya’s aunt, was the other person who was at the Friday rally.

In addition to holding the protest rally, some of the parents signed a letter addressed to the superintendent which they left at the district office.

“We are the parents who are able to be the most involved with the students who are under the instruction of Mr. Leo Bennett-Cauchon. We are confident that we speak for all the parents of the students in the moderate/severe program at Veritas School,” the parents’ letter read in part.

The parents are also “respectfully demand(ing)” that Bennett-Cauchon be reinstated to his teaching position by Wednesday, March 4, adding that “this has escalated too far.”

Earlier reports indicating that the Manteca Police investigation into the allegations against Bennett-Cauchon turned out to be incorrect. Bennett-Cauchon himself stated that they had been given the wrong information and that the investigation is still continuing based on information he has received.