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Tucson Unified District Employee Accused Of Sexual Misconduct Was Moved From School To School

By Mariana Dale, Lauren Gilger
Lily Altavena, the Arizona Republic
Published: Monday, November 4, 2019 - 9:47am
Updated: Tuesday, November 5, 2019 - 8:46am

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Tucson Unified School District building
Tucson Unified School District
The Tucson Unified School District office.

The first record of sexual harassment allegations against Tucson school employee John Corral is from January 2000. Details are sparse: an incident at Pueblo Magnet High School in Tucson categorized as sexual assault.

The report consists of two sentences: "[Victim] reported that John made sexual advances toward her. Tried to blackmail her for sexual favors."

In 2002, a student claimed Corral called her "thick," and touched her stomach and the back of her thigh. 

In 2008, a 14-year-old Hohokam Middle School student claimed Corral whispered an obscene sexual advance in her ear as she took photos for a school club. 

In 2017, a Mansfield Middle School student reported Corral reached near an ear bud dangling close to her leg and touched her inner thigh after months of escalating high-fives and hugs. 

Corral resigned a month later, after 20 years of working odd jobs at Tucson Unified School District. He worked in at least three schools in the state's second-largest school district, as a bus monitor, security monitor and soccer coach.

Corral's story — and a number of other instances like it — reveals a vulnerability in Arizona's system for disciplining school employees accused of sexual misconduct, an investigation by KJZZ and the Arizona Republic has found.

While there is a state discipline process for certified teachers who face sexual misconduct accusations, there is no equivalent system to track or issue punishment for the scores of other school employees who interact with children, it's up to the school and law enforcement. 

In Corral's case, both appeared to have failed the students he's accused of sexually harassing.

The student and her parents in the 2017 case are suing Tucson Unified School District for negligence, claiming the district should have fired Corral long before he landed at Mansfield Middle. 

Attorneys have uncovered evidence of four different sexual harassment claims against Corral over nearly two decades. District and law enforcement documents indicate that administrators across the district knew about some of the claims.

Superintendent Gabriel Trujillo, hired in 2017, said in a deposition this year that the district should not have kept Corral employed after the earlier claims. 

"This administration does not consider it appropriate that this employee was employed for that length of time," he said during the deposition. 

Tucson Unified declined to comment about Corral. Numerous calls by the Republic to several phone numbers connected to Corral were not returned. 

20 Years, 4 Accusations

When Corral resigned from Tucson Unified in 2017, he left behind a record of harassment claims spanning decades. 

The Republic created a timeline of Corral's employment at Tucson Unified, according to records in his district personnel file and police and Sheriff's Department reports: 

  • Late 1990s: Tucson Unified hired Corral. 
  • Late 1990s- 2004: Corral was employed at Pueblo High School as a school monitor. 
  • January 2000: An incident is recorded in Corral's personnel file as a "sexual assault." Little is known about this incident, but the document states that an individual reported that Corral "tried to blackmail her for sexual favors." 
  • August 2002: A student told Tucson police that Corral said she "got thick," and touched her stomach and the back of her thigh. The student also told police that before that incident, when rumors about her involving sex acts circulated around the school, Corral told her he had a key to every room in the school and she could "give him head." Corral denied making the comment about oral sex and denied touching her inappropriately. A memo to Corral from Pueblo Magnet's two assistant principals placed Corral on leave pending an investigation.
  • Jan. 30, 2004: Corral resigned from Pueblo High to work with Tucson Unified's transportation department. 
  • Mid-2008: Corral began working at Hohokam Middle School as a campus monitor. 
  • December 2008: According to a report from the Pima County Sheriff's Department, a 14-year-old Hohokam student said Corral made inappropriate comments to her, including "you are so cute." The student said that when she was taking photographs of the school for a club, he whispered "f--- me" to her. Corral was arrested. In an interview with deputies, Corral said he does not talk "that way" but did remember saying "you're pretty" to a student. The office determined probable cause to arrest Corral for harassment charges, but Corral said in a deposition that a judge eventually dismissed the charge.
  • October 2009: Corral was reassigned to Mansfield Middle School as a campus monitor, according to a district document. 
  • November 2017: A student at Mansfield accused Corral of touching her inner thigh in October 2017, according to a Tucson police report. 
  • December 2017: Corral resigned from Tucson Unified. 

The 2017 incident spurred criminal charges. A judge sentenced Corral to 10 days in jail for aggravated assault, a misdemeanor. 

At the sentencing hearing, the teenage girl's father slammed his fists so hard on a wooden podium during his impact statement that the family's attorney thought he broke it. 

"My family has been through hell," he told the judge. "For 18 years, he's done this. It's documented." 

Database: Teachers Investigated For Sexual Misconduct Since 2015

'He's touching me.'

For nearly two years, the teen in the 2017 case and her family have been embroiled in court battles over the incident with Corral. 

The student's mother remembers vividly the day her daughter turned to her in the car and bellowed, "He's touching me. He's been touching me." The teen's admission came as her mother tried to urge her to get out of the car and go to school. 

The words rattled in the mother's ears, she said. She asked her daughter to repeat what she'd just said. In morning traffic, they sat for a moment, immobile until the mother grasped the steering wheel and pulled over into the school parking lot. 

Then, the teen told her mother about Corral — the security monitor who at first just seemed friendly until an unnerving feeling settled in her gut. She started avoiding him, she said. He sometimes waited for her at classroom doors. When he gave her bear hugs, he sometimes touched her bottom, she said. 

Interviews with police officers, criminal charges and Corral's 2018 sentencing followed.

Now the civil lawsuit is underway. The family's lawsuit claims that Tucson Unified knew about the repeated allegations of sexual harassment against students, but failed to take any meaningful action against Corral. 

"Despite having actual knowledge of his propensity to harass female students, both sexually and otherwise, Defendant TUSD kept John Angel Corral employed through the fall 2017 semester in a capacity that allowed him unsupervised, daily interactions with minor students just as Jane Doe," stated the complaint filed in federal court. 

Tucson Unified's attorneys, in court documents, deny most of the lawsuit's allegations.

But it appears administrators did know of at least one of the other allegations against Corral. In an April 2009 email, after deputies with the Pima County Sheriff's Department arrested Corral, district officials discussed Corral's employment. 

Jim Fish, a former assistant superintendent with Tucson Unified, wrote to another employee, Cathy Amanti, "my recommendation is that John not return to Hohokam or any school." 

In another email to Amanti in the same email chain, Fish wrote, "I am not suggesting that he lose his job. HR can place him in another position that does not put him in contact with students."

In October, the district assigned Corral to Mansfield Middle School. 

The lawsuit is currently in a lengthy discovery stage. 

The girl in the 2017 case told KJZZ and the Republic that she is still shaken by the incident with Corral. Before, she said, she was talkative and bubbly. After, she felt isolated. She blamed herself, so she stopped styling her hair or putting on makeup. 

Almost a year into the legal battle with her school district, the teen sees administrators through a harsher lens: She is skeptical of those adults. 

With time, her life has improved. Her dad says she has the "strength of 10 men." 

"I'm getting one step closer to being whole again," she said. 

A Loophole In The System 

Corral's job as a school monitor was to be around students. Monitors try to manage student behavior in the heavily-trafficked parts of a school: the hallways, the cafeteria, near bathrooms. 

The student in the 2017 case said her interactions with Corral began with high-fives and hugs when she passed him. 

School monitors aren't teachers, but they spend significant chunks of time around students, and while a state system exists to discipline certified educators, no system exists to discipline all the other people, like Corral or many school sports coaches, who work in a school directly with students.  

Certified educators are disciplined through the Arizona State Board of Education, and teachers can lose their privilege to teach in a classroom for a range of offenses — including some offenses that don't rise to the criminal level, like inappropriate comments or sexual texts.  

Other school employees, who aren't certified, can lose their ability to work in a school only if their fingerprint clearance card is suspended. The offenses that disqualify someone from a fingerprint clearance card are typically restricted to criminal actions. Cards are typically suspended after an arrest. 

So while making a sexually suggestive comment to a student might result in a certified educator losing his or her teaching credentials, nothing currently in Arizona law would stop a school employee facing similar accusations from getting a job in another school district. 

→ Issues In The Discipline System For Teacher Sexual Misconduct

State education leaders are aware of this loophole, but coming up with a system to keep school employees accused of sexual misconduct from working around children will take a change in the law.

Sen. Heather Carter, R-Cave Creek, has called the issue a "gaping hole" in state statute. 

"Just because somebody gets a fingerprint clearance card doesn't mean that they aren't a predator," she said in August. 

Paying The Price 

Corral maintained his fingerprint clearance card for years.

Students repeatedly accused him of crossing the line and, for years, nothing happened, the girl in the 2017 case said. 

Because nobody acted, the teen said she was the one hurt.

She missed a lot of school after eighth grade and is still trying to catch up. For awhile, she wanted nothing to do with the school district, but she gave high school in Tucson Unified a chance. She loves it now. 

When she first turned to her mom in the car and yelled out, the student didn't know there may have been others. She thought she had done something to attract Corral's unwanted attention.

Then the other stories reached her. One by one. 

"I know it wasn't me. I know it wasn't just me acting a certain way now," she said. "But it happens so often."

Former Arizona Daily Star reporter Hank Stephenson contributed to this article.

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