SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) — The conviction of a former California principal for failing to report suspected sexual abuse of a child by a teacher marked just the second time in two decades that Santa Clara County prosecutors had pursued the misdemeanor charge — and it was the first time they won, officials said.
After deliberating for two days, a jury on Monday found Lyn Vijayendran, 36, guilty of the crime.
A judge sentenced the former principal of O.B. Whaley Elementary School in San Jose to two years of probation, $602 in fines and 100 hours of community service, which likely will involve training other educators in the proper reporting of suspected child abuse, the San Jose Mercury News reported (http://bit.ly/VvJK9G ).
"I agree with the jury's verdict," Santa Clara County Judge Deborah Ryan told a tearful Vijayendran. "You did what you thought was right, but I don't think it was objectively reasonable at the time.
"I know it will have far-reaching consequences for your career. I do think you made a very bad judgment that day," the judge said.
State law requires principals, teachers and others who come into contact with children to report suspected child abuse.
Child-abuse experts hailed the verdict after some thought the case would end in a mistrial.
A mistrial "would have sent the wrong message," said Margaret Petros, a commissioner on the Child Abuse Council of Santa Clara County. "This verdict is important for all mandated reporters to heed. There are so many who don't take it seriously."
After sentencing, Assistant District Attorney Alison Filo said Vijayendran simply did not meet her obligation as an educator and said as much during the weeklong trial.
"Getting talked out of that reasonable suspicion by her own inadequate investigation just isn't a defense," Filo said.
Vijayendran testified that teacher Craig Chandler appeared forthright when he told her an incident during which he allegedly blindfolded a second-grade girl and put something in her mouth was part of a lesson plan about Helen Keller.