SAN JOSE (AP) — Notes taken by a former principal accused of failing to report suspected sexual abuse at her California elementary school reveal that a teacher who was later charged with molesting children in class blindfolded a second-grade girl and put something in her mouth, a newspaper reported.
The notes of onetime O.B. Whaley Elementary School principal Lyn Vijayendran indicate she was aware of allegations of unusual classroom behavior by teacher Craig Richard Chandler but failed to notify police or Child Protective Services, the San Jose Mercury News reported Thursday.
The notes were previously sealed but were released by a Santa Clara County judge after the newspaper filed a state Public Records Act request with the Evergreen School District.
Other documents showed that tests by the county crime lab found semen on chairs in Chandler's classroom.
The case is similar to that of another onetime California educator accused of inappropriate behavior with his students dating back to 2005.
Former Los Angeles elementary school teacher Mark Berndt, 61, was arrested in January and remains jailed after pleading not guilty to committing lewd acts with nearly two-dozen children as young as 6.
Prosecutors claim Berndt, a teacher for more than 30 years at Miramonte Elementary School, made students play a bizarre tasting game, blindfolding and feeding them his semen smeared on cookies and spoons.
Hundreds of photographs were found of children with blindfolds and tape over their mouths.
Chandler, 35, also was arrested in January and remains jailed as he awaits trial this month on five counts of lewd and lascivious acts on a child under age 14. He has pleaded not guilty.
His lawyer, Brian Madden, told The Associated Press on Friday that his client is a married father of three children, all under 5, who has been a teacher for nine years, mostly in San Jose.
"Mr. Chandler is looking forward to his jury trial and he expects to be exonerated," said Madden, who would not comment on the notes taken by Vijayendran.
The law requires principals, teachers and others who come into contact with children to report suspected child abuse. Vijayendran has been charged with a misdemeanor and reassigned to the district office as a coordinator of teacher support programs.
Her handwritten and typed notes say the second-grader told the principal in front of her mother that Chandler put something in her mouth while she was blindfolded and alone with him in a classroom. The notes said Chandler wiggled her body and head back and forth and asked her earlier to open her legs.
Vijayendran's attorney, Eric Geffon, told the AP that neither his client, the child's parent nor the district thought the episode was abuse.
"Nobody saw this as an act of abuse," Geffon said. "It would be inaccurate to say that there was a claim of abuse reported."
Prosecutors, however, say the girl's account should have been enough for Vijayendran to contact police or Child Protective Services. Instead, the principal consulted with the school district's human resources director and then warned Chandler not to conduct what he called a "Helen Keller lesson" with students alone, the notes state.
In an interview with Vijayendran, Chandler said he called the girl into the classroom to prepare a lesson on Keller, and the instructional goal was to deprive the students of sight. Chandler said he used a bath sponge on her foot and legs, and put a bottle of salty water into her mouth.
Chandler told Vijayendran his classroom door was open the entire time.
"I told Mr. Chandler that his actions were made with very poor judgment," Vijayendran said in her notes. When she described to Chandler what the girl said, Chandler replied, "'Oh, when you put it that way, it does sound really bad,'" according to the notes.