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Accused Coach Had Local Fans, But No Accusers

Man facing 12 counts of sexual abuse was respected basketball authority.

 

Parents of Santa Clarita Valley girls coached by Kevin Lamont Thomas, who has been arrested for inappropriate sexual behavior with a minor, are shocked, according to Hart District officials.

Thomas, 40, was arrested June 10 by LAPD.  The basketball coach and special education assistant at Birmingham High School in Van Nuys is facing 12 felony counts of sexually assaulting a female student, according to the LA County District Attorney’s office.

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Hart District Assistant Superintendent Rochelle Neal said that Kevin Thomas was well-connected with the athletic community in Santa Clarita because his daughter played basketball at Hart High before graduating in 2007.

“She was a star basketball player and won an NCAA scholarship,” Neal said. “He helped with the team and had a lot of credibility among the basketball parents.”

Neal said that through his daughter’s activities, he was sought out by other players for individual coaching. She said she understood that Thomas had been coaching three female Canyon High basketball players and some players from the Hart High team. None of the local players have made any accusations against Thomas and several parents are shocked at the charges.

He is being held at Men’s Central Jail in lieu of $600,000 bail. He has been charged with one count of lewd act on a child under the age of 15; five counts of sexual penetration by a foreign object while the victim was unconscious; five counts of sexual penetration by a foreign object on a child under 18; and one count of possession of child pornography.

Thomas, who coached basketball during the summer and also gave both group and private sessions, allegedly assaulted a female student during two consecutive summer sessions. He also allegedly molested her during private sessions that allegedly occurred between 2004 and 2006. After media reports of his arrest, three more San Fernando Valley girls have come forward and talked with LAPD.

If convicted, he faces up to 30 years in state prison.

On Thursday, the district issued a response to an editorial published in The Signal newspaper on Sunday in a letter signed by Superintendent Jaime Castellanos.

“Half of The Signal’s Sunday (June 15) editorial summarized recent allegations of “sexually inappropriate: conduct by Hart District employees and a volunteer. The critical question, and the one that District staff has already been answering for understandably concerned parents, appears below the fold. That question is “Where is the district on this?”

The Hart District utilizes very stringent hiring procedures. Every applicant is fingerprinted. Those prints are screened through the Department of Justice data base, which includes a check for sex offenses. Potential employees must provide proof of a non-reactive tuberculosis test and of course, references from previous employers are checked.

It should be noted that, while the Hart District Governing Board approves all hiring, it does so on the recommendation of District Staff. The Governing Board members are not directly involved in the screening or interviewing process for individuals seeking employment with the District.

Whenever the District has become aware of possible impropriety with a student, we have worked diligently to gather information as quickly and as thoroughly as possible, and to assist law enforcement in every way possible as it conducts its investigation of the allegations. While The Signal might wish to become privy to detailed accounts of possible misconduct, confidentiality laws clearly prohibit the District from publicly disclosing that information. Doing so would not help law enforcement in its fact-finding and could possibly jeopardize the investigation.

The Hart District takes very seriously any and all allegations of inappropriate behavior by its employees. The District consists of more than 3,262 teachers, counselors, coaches and classified staff, and we value the trust and confidence the community has place in us for over 60 years. Student safety is our highest priority and when an employee uses his or her authority to harm a child, either physically or emotionally, the District uses its full authority, to investigate the situation and discipline the offender. Criminal prosecution is of course, outside of the preview (sic) of the District, but as stated earlier, we will always cooperate fully with law enforcement in investigating allegations of wrongdoing.

So, what is the Hart District doing right now? The Signal shouldn’t sell the June 9 session with Sgt. Dan Scott short. Sgt. Scott is involved in all of the pending investigations. His insight on this topic was indispensable. That meeting was attended by all school site administrators and District managers. In the fall, Principals and Assistant Principals will be working directly with their site staff to ensure that all adults on campus are aware of the laws and policies regarding the manner in which adults and students work together.

On August 4, all District administrators will participate in an extended workshop, where the rules regarding appropriate contact between staff and students will be reinforced. As part of the program, attendees will work in small groups to consider various hypothetical situations where they will review what is proper and what is not proper. When schools reopen, principals will facilitate similar exercises with their faculties, re-examining professional standards and ethics, including their responsibility to report any inappropriate relationship of which they might become aware. The consequences for such behavior will also be re-emphasized.

Good teachers have relationships with their students. In the vast majority of instances, these relationships are healthy, nurturing, ethical and completely appropriate. Students trust and confide in their counselors, coaches, campus supervisors and other adults at school. Parents typically value these relationships, and entrust the safety and well-being of their children to us, the adults. This is what parents and their children expect and deserve from us.”