(CBS/AP) LOS ANGELES - A fourth-grade teacher who worked in the Los Angeles Unified School District for nearly 40 years was arrested Wednesday on allegations that he sexually abused 20 students.
Robert Pimentel, 57, was arrested on suspicion of sexual abuse that allegedly took place at George De La Torre Jr. Elementary in the Wilmington area. He is charged with eight felony counts of continual sexual abuse and seven counts of lewd acts upon a child, Los Angeles Police Officer Officer Christopher No told The Associated Press.
No said that in addition to the 15 felonies, misdemeanor charges are expected for the remaining incidents. Pimentel's bail has been set at $12 million.
Police and school officials also said Pimentel is suspected of the sexual abuse of one adult, but did not say what role, if any, that person had at the school.
Pimentel left his fourth-grade teaching position in March 2012 when police opened their investigation after several girls told their parents he inappropriately touched them during school.
District officials immediately removed him from campus and parents and state credentialing authorities were informed, school district spokesman Daryl Strickland said. Parents and guardians will be told of the arrest by letter and phone.
Before the official dismissal process with the Board of Education could begin, Pimentel retired. He had worked for the district since 1974.
LAUSD Superintendent John Deasy told the Los Angeles Times that the school's principal was immediately removed because the superintendent was "dissatisfied" with how the incident was handled.
Court records obtained by the Times show the allegations covered a period between Sept. 2011 to March 2012. LAPD Capt. Fabian Lizzaraga told the newspaper that Pimentel is suspected of inappropriately touching the children over and under their clothing.
The Los Angeles teachers' union issued a statement calling the incidents described in the allegations "horrific" and said that Pimentel was no longer a member and the union would not be involved in his defense.
The Police Department said the teacher's name was spelled "Pimental," but the school district and public records give the spelling as "Pimentel."
Pimentel's arrest came a year after another veteran teacher accused of molesting nearly two dozen students brought national attention to the district and the problem of classroom sex abuse. More than 225 parents and students are involved in various claims for damages against the district after Miramonte Elementary School teacherwas arrested and has pleaded not guilty to 23 counts of lewd conduct.