A jury in San Jose on Monday convicted a former elementary school principal for failing to report a case of suspected sex abuse by a teacher to authorities, marking a rare instance in which prosecutors brought misdemeanor charges under the state’s mandated-reporting law.
Following two days of jury deliberations, Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Deborah Ryan immediately sentenced Lyn Vijayendran, 36, to two years of probation and 100 hours of community service, most likely training educators to comply with the state’s law on reporting. She could have been sentenced to up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine.
The case marked the first conviction and only the second instance of prosecution in the county under the law, according to the Mercury News, which covered the trial. Prosecution is thought to be equally rare statewide. The law lists 40 categories of those in charge of children – teachers, day care workers, physicians, firefighters – who are required to report suspected child abuse to law enforcement.
Vijayendran failed to act after an 8-year-old student and her mother went to her in October 2011 about a disturbing incident involving her teacher, Craig Chandler, at O.B. Whaley Elementary in the Evergreen School District. Though blindfolded during the incident, the girl provided enough graphic detail to indicate that Chandler had committed a lewd act.
Vijayendran did go to the district’s director of human resources, who told her to interview the teacher. He dismissed the concern.
Three months later, after Chandler abused another girl in the same fashion, he was arrested. He has been charged with lascivious conduct on five children and is awaiting trial.
School districts are required to train their personnel in the mandatory reporting law, but neither Vijayendran nor the human resources director had received training.
Paul Matiasic, an attorney for one of the victims who is suing Vijayendran, Chandler and Evergreen School District, said that the district committed a “glaring omission not to have trained teachers to comply with the laws.”
“Teachers should be trained in same way as basic first aid, with what signs to look for and the duty of mandatory reporting,” he said.
Vijayendran, who has been reassigned to duties in the central office, was given “an egregious fact pattern” yet failed to press Chandler for details. Teachers should not be doing their own investigations, Matiasic said.
According to the Mercury News, in sentencing her, Judge Ryan said, “I agree with the jury’s verdict. You did what you thought was right … but I do think you made a very bad judgment that day.”