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Sexual abuse investigation underway at Carpinteria school

Santa Barbara Sheriff’s Office
Posted at 11:04 AM, Jul 01, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-02 03:51:48-04

A sexual abuse and misconduct investigation is underway at a Carpinteria school and authorities are seeking other possible victims or witnesses in the case.

The Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office says the investigation was launched on April 1 by mandated reporters outside of the school speaking on behalf of the sexual assault survivors.”

The allegations reportedly involve a former employee of the independent 9th – 12th grade school, who investigators are not naming in an effort to “protect the integrity of the case and ensure justice for the survivors.” They add that the alleged abuse occurred on school property while the suspect was still employed at the school.

Search warrants were served at the school a week ago by sheriff’s detectives and the Santa Barbara County District Attorney’s Office, who were looking for potential evidence related to the allegations.

While the sheriff’s office says it’s working with the “identified survivors,” officials add that “Detectives and investigators are currently working with Cate School and their legal representatives to contact the named and any unnamed sexual assault survivors along with locating and identifying any other potential witnesses to the alleged sexual misconduct,” according to a press release.

Anyone with information is asked to contact Detective Sergeant Mark Valencia at (805) 681-4150. They say they believe there may be other possible victims or witnesses who have not yet been contacted and add that there are resources available to everyone, even if they choose not to participate in the criminal investigation.

The Head of School, Ben Williams, sent a message to the community Thursday in response to the recent investigation:

"Dear Parents and Students,

I write today with important information regarding an investigation that is currently underway with the Santa Barbara Sheriff’s Department.

We are cooperating with an investigation by local law enforcement into alleged sexual misconduct by a former employee, who worked at Cate School for six months, and whose employment was terminated in February of 2020. Cate School had also alerted Child Protective Services to potential inappropriate conduct by the employee last year. Per the request of the Sheriff’s Department, we are not sharing the suspect’s name in order to protect the integrity of the pending criminal investigation.

In hopes of aiding law enforcement in obtaining any information they may need, and at their request, we have provided the detectives at the Santa Barbara Sheriff’s Department with the contact information of all parents of students who attended Cate School during the period of time in question. Please share any relevant information if contacted. The Department has also asked anyone with information related to the investigation to contact Detective Sergeant Mark Valencia at (805) 681-4150.

Because the investigation is currently ongoing, there is no other information that we can provide at this time.

As always, we remain committed to maintaining safety and care for our students. We conduct regular reviews of all school policies relating to student safety and support to ensure that our training and protocols consistently reflect the most current and best-in-class practices. We also continue to provide extensive, ongoing training for faculty and staff around boundaries and professional conduct."