On March 30, 2016, an email was sent to seven Sweetwater Union High School District administrators with the intent of bringing attention to reports of sexual misconduct within the JROTC program.
The email had a glaringly obvious subject line that read “INCIDENT AT MAR VISTA HIGH/NJROTC WITH INSTRUCTOR AND STUDENT.” The aforementioned email also contained a graphic account of sexual misconduct between a 17-year-old female participant in the JROTC program, “Jane Roe”, and a substitute instructor, Martin Gallegos.
According to The Voice of San Diego, a volunteer at Mar Vista High School’s Navy Junior ROTC program, Randy Vasquez, compiled evidence of the relationship between Gallegos and Roe and informed his superiors. Vasquez says he thought the details of the inappropriate relationship would move administrators to take action and report the situation to authorities.
“I gave them the opportunity to do something, and they didn’t do it,” Vazquez said. Vazquez was not employed by the district or subject to mandated child abuse reporting laws at the time.
Vasquez informed his superiors, Master Chiefs Enrique “Rik” Alberto and John Strait, once he noticed that the relationship had taken a physical turn. Alberto and Strait were both subject to comply with mandated reporting laws as they were employed by Sweetwater Union High School District and certified by the Naval Service Training Command of the U.S. Navy. Vasquez reiterated that both Alberto and Strait turned a blind eye to his complaints and told him to let an assistant principal handle it.
“I feel guilt for not saying something sooner,” Vazquez told The Voice of San Diego. “No one acted. Strait just wanted a smooth retirement, he shut his ears to what happened and Alberto encouraged the bad behavior but told [Gallegos] to be careful. Everyone got off too easy.”
In his email to school administrators, Vazquez explains that he had reported the misconduct to several individuals who were subject to comply with mandated reporting laws at Mar Vista High School prior to attempting to contact administration himself, but was completely ignored.
Now that this story has been brought forth publicly, district spokesperson Manny Rubio released a statement claiming that none of the district’s administrators saw the email until recently because the email went to their spam boxes.
Jane Roe’s lawsuit against the district details Vazquez’s attempts to notify district employees:
“The ROTC Volunteer compiled the text messages both he and (Roe)’s friend had exchanged with (Roe) regarding the sexual abuse by (Gallegos) and presented the information separately to ROTC instructors Master Chief Enrique Alberto and Master Chief John Strait. The ROTC volunteer was told to leave it alone and that (Gallegos) would handle the situation with an assistant principal … The ROTC volunteer was unsatisfied with this response and on March 24, 2016, he prepared a signed statement regarding his awareness of the sexual abuse of (Roe) by (Gallegos) and presented the statement to Mar Vista High School. This statement included several pages of text messages.”
When staff, administrators, and anyone else employed by the district fail to comply with their state-mandated reporting contracts, these individuals are not only breaking the law but are also allowing students to become vulnerable to predatory teachers.
“I could have just thrown these texts away. I was the only one who had anything,” Vazquez said. “They thought I was going to go quietly as well.”
Sexual abuse and misconduct is a preventable atrocity that can be averted entirely or at the very least mitigated simply by individuals doing their job responsibly. When officials who ‘see something’ are accountable and ‘say something’, sexual misconduct can often be stopped before it occurs and consequently harms the lives of individuals and destroys the reputations of educational institutions.
This isn’t the first time school officials have made appeals to ignorance by ‘failing to read’ emails or address reports of abuse. The trend indicates that school officials are doing this to acquit themselves of responsibility of the child abuse in their schools.
This phenomenon is evident in other regions of the west coast, such as Los Angeles, Orange County, San Bernardino, and Riverside counties where several of these cases have been prosecuted from 2012 to 2017, according to The San Bernardino Sun. Clearly, more must be done to prevent inappropriate sexual behavior between students and school employees.