English teacher at Mills allegedly taped girls in bathroom

The English teacher at Mills High School who allegedly confessed to videotaping girls at an often-used bathroom on campus conducted the tapings before Christmas and again on Valentine’s Day, a school district official said Tuesday.

Teacher David Lista, 35, of Belmont, was arrested Thursday on suspicion of drug possession after school officials found videotapes of girls on his classroom computer, police said. Lista had allegedly put a camera in a tiny hole above the bathroom stall, which was separated from his office by a storage closet, authorities said.

The scandal at Mills High comes less than a year after Adam Albrecht, a former Capuchino High School music teacher, agreed to a plea deal for having a three-month sexual relationship with a 17-year-old female student.

At Mills High on Tuesday, students said Lista was well-liked and that he helped as an adviser to the freshmen cheerleading squad. He taught English and a leadership class similar to student government for seven years at the high school, which currently has 1,637 students.

He is currently on paid administrative leave pending a hearing at the next school board meeting. At the meeting, which could happen as early as Thursday, the school board will determine whether to terminate Lista.

The bathroom that Lista allegedly conducted the videotaping was often used by most of the female students with wait lines frequently forming outside the bathroom door, students said.

“There’s always a long wait outside the bathroom,” said a 16-year-old student who said she used the bathroom often. “It’s upsetting. … It’s disgusting.”

Administrators notified parents of three students identified in the tapes, said Miller, who added that other girls could not be identified.

“All my friends liked Mr. Lista,” said another 17-year-old female student. “It was really surprising for us to hear what he did. Everyone’s just in shock.”

Lista allegedly stored videotapes on his classroom computer from before Christmas and again from Valentine’s Day, said David Miller, superintendent of the San Mateo Union High School District. School IT workers found the videos when Lista was home sick Thursday after there appeared to be too many files on the computer, Miller said.

Lista was arrested on suspicion of possession of methamphetamine after Millbrae police used a warrant to search his home, Sgt. John Aronis said. The pornography investigation could take a few weeks as his computer is forensically analyzed, he said.

If the “very high quality” images are graphic enough, Lista could be facing felony charges when he is arraigned in court on April 8, said Chief Deputy District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe.

Lista has been released on $10,000 bail.

mrosenberg@examiner.com

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