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LAUSD: Another Example of Institutional Ineptitude in the Protection of Children

By now, most have heard that a Los Angeles Superior Court Judge recently ordered the LA Archdiocese to release tens of thousands of documents that reveal the extent of that institution's cover-up of rampant childhood sexual abuse within its institution. However, the documents reveal another shocking story of institutional negligence in the protection of children.

The Los Angeles Unified School District hired Joseph Pina, a former priest in the LA Archdiocese, in January 2002 as a community organizer. In his new capacity, Pina frequently came into contact with young children. However, the newly released church documents reveal that Pina had been removed by the LA Archdiocese because he admitted to being attracted to young girls, and in one case, acted on that attraction by sexually abusing a young girl.

In fact, the documents also reveal that in a pre-employment questionnaire sent by the LA Unified School District to the LA Archdiocese, the Archdiocese specifically warned LA Unified that there was additional information about Mr. Pina that would make him unsuitable for employment at a school. However, neither school officials nor the Archdiocese ever followed up after the initial questionnaire. Roughly 8 months after hiring Pina, school officials became aware of allegations that Mr. Pina had sexually abused a 14-year-old girl in the 1970s while still serving as a priest in Los Angeles. Officials then confirmed with the Los Angeles Police Department, that Mr. Pina was in fact accused of such conduct, but that no charges could be brought because of the statute of limitations.

School officials decided not to relieve Mr. Pina of his position, reasoning that he had not been convicted of a crime. This is just another example of institutional ignorance in the protection of children. Here, LA Unified was warned that Mr. Pina was unfit to work in a school by his former employer, and subsequent to hiring him learned that he was being investigated criminally for abusing a minor child. Instead of relieving him of his position upon learning of his proclivities, Pina was allowed constant contact with children for approximately 11 years. It wasn't until the release of the LA Archdiocese documents that LA Unified finally decided to let him go.

As a law firm that represented one of Pina's victims against the LA Archdiocese, it is truly shocking that this man was allowed free access to Los Angeles' children for over 11 years.