RICHMOND (CBS SF) -- A teacher accused of sexually abusing six elementary school students pleaded not guilty to more than two dozen felony charges filed against him in Contra Costa County Superior Court on Friday.
Ronald Guinto, 32, entered the plea during his arraignment in a Richmond courtroom Friday. He was charged with 27 felonies including 13 counts of lewd acts on a child under 14, eight counts of kidnapping, forcible oral copulation, forcible sodomy on a child, sending lewd material to a minor online and dissuading a witness, according to the Contra Costa County District Attorney's Office.
His bail has been raised to $17 million, and he is set to return to court in Richmond on March 28.
The charges stem from allegations that Guinto sexually abused six 11 to 13-year-old students during his time as a teacher at Making Waves Academy in Richmond, according to police.
He was arrested as he arrived at work on Wednesday morning at Mira Vista Elementary School in El Cerrito.
Investigators believe many of the alleged crimes happened during camping trips and other excursions where Guinto was the lead chaperone, Richmond police Lt. Andre Hill said.
Hill said police rushed to get an arrest warrant for Guinto after learning earlier this week that he was again working as a teacher.
West Contra Costa Unified School District administrators say there have been no allegations of sexual misconduct against Guinto at Mira Vista Elementary since he began working there in January.
WCCUSD school board president Charles Ramsey said Thursday that Guinto was recently offered a full-time teaching contract, in part because of his ability to work with kids who are struggling in school.
He was also set to take a group of students on an overnight trip to Yosemite next month, Ramsey said.
Guinto had worked at many of the district's schools as a substitute between 2008 and 2011 and has been a popular, well-liked seventh-grade teacher at Mira Vista, the school board president said.
Ramsey said when Guinto applied for a full-time teaching position in December, human resources personnel conducted a criminal background check but did not check his references, since he was considered a re-hire. The district doesn't require reference checks for re-hired staff, a policy the school board president said he intends to change.
Alton Nelson, CEO of Making Waves Academy, where the alleged sexual abuse occurred, said school officials immediately investigated the allegations when they were reported in November and notified police.
Guinto was fired and the school continued its internal investigation while cooperating with the police probe.
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