A California high school teacher who was repeatedly accused of sexually assaulting female students is now teaching “life skills” to disabled students as he awaits trial on felony charges.
Police arrested former Jordan High School teacher Mark Anthony Santo on Monday for allegedly sexually assaulting a 13-year-old girl at his home in 2015, and he now faces a possible eight years in prison if convicted.
The allegations follow a pattern of inappropriate behavior with students that resulted in his resignation from the Long Beach Unified School District in 2018, though he still managed to land a new job with North Orange Continuing Education, the Long Beach Post reports.
Jennifer Perez, North Orange communications director, confirmed Santo is employed by the community college district teaching online courses on money management and other life skills to disabled students, but she wouldn’t disclose whether administrators were aware of his past.
It’s unclear whether the recent criminal charge stems from his work with students, KTLA reports.
Santo’s employment records show he was first reprimanded for “liking” female students’ photos on Instagram in 2013, when he worked at Lindbergh Middle School. Lindberg principal Connie Magee asked Santo to limit communications with students on social media.
Five years later, there was talk about his hands-on approach.
According to the Post:
Santo was again under scrutiny in February 2018. Records show that’s when Jordan Principal Veronica Coleman met with Santo to tell him he should be “less demonstrative” with students after another teacher overheard three girls talking about Santo hugging them.
During that meeting, Santo admitted that he “recently made an error in judgment and engaged in a one time sexual act” with a former LBUSD student who was 18 years old, Coleman wrote in a letter reiterating what happened at their meeting and informing Santo he was being immediately removed from the classroom.
The student involved told police Santo showered her with lewd comments and inappropriate pictures of himself when she was 15 and 16, and also tried to kiss her and pull her pants down in a classroom. The harassment culminated at Santo’s home in 2018, when the victim said he forced oral sex on her.
Santo never returned to the classroom at LBUSD, but he resigned with a secret employment agreement months later that allowed him to continue to prey on students elsewhere. The agreements are commonly negotiated between union and district officials to protect pedophile teachers, who often repeat their behavior until they’re arrested.
The Post was forced to file public information requests to obtain the details of Santo’s arrangement because district officials refuse to discuss the deal.
“ … Records obtained by the Post show the Long Beach Unified School District promised Santo it would provide few if any details about the accusations to potential employers,” according to the news site.
“If Santo were applying for a job to work with students under 18, the LBUSD agreed to tell the employer only that Santo ‘voluntarily resigned pending allegations of misconduct involving a student,’ the contract states.
“If Santo were applying for a job working with students over 18, the district was barred from mentioning the allegations at all.”
Santo now faces a single count of lewd acts with a child under 14. He pleaded not guilty and is currently held on a $100,000 bail. Court records allege Santo sexually assaulted a 13-year-old at his home in October 2015, but offer few other details.
Both of Santo’s alleged victims were described as family friends but are not the same person, according to the Post.