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SF high school teacher retires after claims of sexual assault by dozens of students

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John O’Connell High School of Technology seen in San Francisco’s Mission District Wednesday, August 30, 2017. (Daniel Kim/Special to S.F. Examiner)

A former John O’Connell High School physical education teacher and soccer coach retired this summer with a full pension despite allegations of sexual assault by some 30 female students and reports of his inappropriate behavior made to the school’s administrators two years ago.

Bob Gamino, who has been employed with the San Francisco Unified School District since 1994 and has no prior complaints filed against him, was placed on administrative leave in May after a female student accused him of sexual assault that she alleges spanned the entire school year.

Gamino’s administrative leave was pending the outcome of an internal investigation launched by the school district thereafter, according to SFUSD spokesperson Gentle Blythe.

This summer, however, Gamino retired in lieu of termination, Blythe said. She did not comment on Gamino’s salary at the time of his retirement, but said that his pension and benefits “were already vested as a matter of law.” The nonprofit site Transparent California listed that Roberto Gamino, an athletic director at the SFUSD, earned $126,639.24 in total pay and benefits in 2016, but the San Francisco Examiner was unable to verify that salary with the school district.

“There is no legal mechanism by which the district can deny an employee pension and retirement benefits because of misconduct,” Blythe wrote in an email to the Examiner on Wednesday. “These entitlements are dictated by state law and the collective bargaining agreement between the District and the United Educators.”

Though Gamino was able to retire quietly, the school district took “the most severe action it could have” against him, Blythe said.

“He was separated from the district, he is not eligible for rehire, and we made a full report to the Commission on Teacher Credentialing, which is the only agency empowered to ensure that Gamino does not teach in another district,” Blythe said.

The school district launched its internal investigation on the same day that Interim Principal Susan Ryan reported the female student’s complaints to the school district’s Title IX officer, tasked with processing sexual harassment complaints, according to Blythe.

The investigation revealed that the student wasn’t Gamino’s only alleged victim — at least 30 female students reported being victimized by Gamino in the 2016-17 school year.

San Francisco School Board President Shamann Walton said in a phone interview on Wednesday that the school district investigated the allegation “as soon as we got word — we had to go through the process before taking action.”

“Sometimes you want things to move faster. We have to work within the framework of the law, and [school district] employees have [certain] protections,” Walton said.

Walton expressed concern that Gamino is entitled to his full pension. “I would not be happy if he got off that easy,” he said, adding that he would do “everything in my power to make sure that he doesn’t work with this district or with our children again.”

San Francisco Police Department spokesperson Officer Grace Gatpandan confirmed that police have launched a criminal investigation into Gamino.

School district officials say they were disturbed to learn through the internal investigation that the high school’s former principal, Mark Alvarado, was allegedly aware of some of the inappropriate behavior perpetrated by Gamino some two years ago.

“District policy requires all school administrators to promptly and thoroughly investigate allegations of sexual harassment,” Blythe said. “Mr. Alvarado was aware of allegations that pursuant to district policy required him to investigate.

Alvarado, who was on medical leave at the time that the district was made aware of the students’ complaints, was reassigned to an administrative position at Everett Middle School for the 2017-18 school year, but an employee there said on Wednesday that Alvarado failed to show up for work last week.

Blythe confirmed that Alvarado extended his medical leave beyond the start of the school year and currently “does not have a placement.”

“As a result of the district’s investigation, it was decided that Mr. Alvarado should no longer lead O’Connell High School and that he should complete his final year of a three year administrative contract under the direct supervision of another administrator,” Blythe said.

Alvarado could not be reached for comment by press time, and it is unclear when he will return to the school district.

Students and parents had been notified of the investigation by John O’Connell’s administration.

“It took great courage for the girls to come forward, and we are supporting those students. In addition, my team is working with the district to coordinate school-wide events, trainings and other activities to raise awareness about sexual harassment and to support a safe and supportive learning environment for female students,” Ryan, the school’s interim principal, wrote in a letter addressed to John O’Connell parents.

Several students who filed out of John O’Connell High School on Wednesday said that they were aware of Gamino’s departure.

One senior said he had heard complaints from his female classmates about the soccer coach, and said he felt “relieved” that Gamino would not be returning to his teaching position.

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