Teacher pleads not guilty to child pornography charges

A teacher at Terra Nova High School who was also active in the Latino music community has been accused of receiving and possessing child pornography.

Parents, neighbors and friends were shocked to find out that 44-year-old Carlos D. Araiza, who has been teaching Spanish at Terra Nova High School since 2000, was recently arrested after being investigated by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

According to the U.S. Department of Justice, Araiza, who had a detention hearing Thursday in San Francisco, pleaded not guilty to the charges of one count of receiving child pornography in January 2005 and one count of possessing child pornography in March 2005.

At Terra Nova, Araiza was also in charge of several groups, including Latino, Middle Eastern and tennis clubs. Jefferson Union High School District Superintendent Mike Crilly said the case against Araiza was not connected to the school.

“He’s been a good teacher at school — that’s why this is shocking,” Crilly said.

He said the teacher was placed on administrative leave.

“It’s disturbing,” said Elizabeth Kvarna, whose son is a freshman at Terra Nova. “We have to keep our eyes wide-open.”

Araiza’s attorney, Charles C. Pierpoint III, did not return calls for comment.

Araiza, who received a master’s degree in Creative Arts Education from San Francisco State University, had participated in many Latino salsa bands and acted as musical director for several theater productions around the Bay Area. A new CD with his band, Latin House Players, was due out this month.

“I’m in disbelief,” said SFSU theater professor Carlos Baron, who has taught and worked on theater productions with Araiza. “I’ve known him for many years and I never would have guessed. It’s shocking and sad and I certainly hope it’s not true.”

Baron called him a well-known figure in the Latino music community.

Neighbors in Pacific Skies Estates mobile home park in Pacifica, where Araiza lives, also said there was nothing suspicious about his behavior. His neighbor Patricia Bradley said Araiza lives with his mother and a son, who is now in college.

Bradley, who saw Araiza being arrested at his home, said she was very surprised.

“He seemed like a very nice man,” she said.

Araiza’s next hearingis May 22.

svasilyuk@examiner.com

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