A Los Angeles School Instructor Was Probed For Sex Abuse

A Birmingham Community Charter High School cheerleader expected the same treatment for her sprained ankle six weeks into the school year.

The 17-year-old said a trainer called “RT” massaged her leg with oils instead of cooling, stretching, and taping. She said he touched her leg and thigh first.

The unidentified girl stated she was lying on a table in a Lake Balboa school training room with other classmates. She wore a jacket, shorts, and a towel around her waist.

“He pierced my thigh and towel. He touched her inappropriately under her panties, she told The Times. He said, “Is everything OK?” as she said she had to leave.

She told her parents hours later. They promptly reported the incident to LAPD Van Nuys.

Richard Alexander Turner, 64, was detained on Sept. 21.

Police knew Turner. A female Van Nuys High student alleged in 2017 that Turner inappropriately touched her. According to Los Angeles Unified School District officials, the LAPD noted a lack of evidence and made no arrests or charges. The district said Turner’s contract was “immediately terminated.”

Police instantly linked the two accusations and located other victims who accused Turner of assault.

He’s charged with sexually assaulting nine girls at Birmingham High and Van Nuys High.

Prosecutors say the alleged abuses of 15- to 17-year-old girls got more regular and brutal over time. Turner is accused of abusing another student on the same day as the cheerleader.

He’s accused of rape, sexual battery, sexual assault on an unconscious victim, and forcible oral copulation. All but four of Turner’s claimed contacts occurred between May and September this year.

After Turner was charged, Los Angeles County Dist. Atty. George Gascón stated some incidences occurred on campus during sports injury treatments and others occurred outside of school. Prosecutors say Turner’s Chevy Suburban had a mattress. In one case, he’s accused of raping and orally copulating with a student-athlete at a sporting event.

Turner’s attorney didn’t return calls.

The Birmingham cheerleader asks how Turner continued dealing with young girls following an abuse allegation.

“What happened to examine someone’s past and everything?” she said in an interview to improve the hiring process for school athletic trainers, who work directly with students in exercise and physical therapy.

Attorney David Ring said it’s “inconceivable” that Turner was under criminal investigation in 2017 at Van Nuys High and afterward employed at Birmingham, “where he’s authorized to massage and touch student-athletes”

Neither L.A. Unified nor Birmingham High, which is no longer part of the district, would offer complete details on Turner’s appointment. Both the district and Birmingham have experienced sexual misconduct issues.

Turner became an independent contractor for L.A. Unified on July 15, 2017. The district wouldn’t confirm if he was an athletic trainer at Van Nuys High, but it didn’t contradict police and prosecutors’ statements.

L.A. Unified authorities stated Turner had no criminal record or misconduct reports before his appointment.

Six weeks after he started, a Van Nuys student accused “misconduct,” and “the school administration quickly alerted police enforcement,” the district stated. Turner’s contract ended on Aug. 31, 2017.

Los Angeles police said detectives notified the school of the wrongdoing allegation, not the other way around. Neither party filed charges.

“He never contracted or worked for the district again,” L.A. Unified stated. The district says it acted correctly by reporting the accusation to authorities and terminating Turner’s contract. L.A. Unified officials didn’t say if they believed the accusation.

Unlike teachers, there is no California entity that oversees athletic trainer licensing to which the school system can submit complaints.

LAUSD officials did not answer inquiries about how unverified sexual assault complaints are documented on contractor records. It’s unclear if Turner’s lack of charges in the Van Nuys complaint prevented official disclosures on his job record that could have barred him from being recruited elsewhere.

California is the only state that doesn’t license athletic trainers, said CATA president Ky E. Kugler.

Two years after the Van Nuys accusation, Turner started working at Birmingham High in September 2019. There are 224 charter schools in Los Angeles, each with its own board of directors. Birmingham’s landlord must renew its independence annually.

District and school don’t share records.

Birmingham Athletic Director Rick Prizant said Turner’s fingerprints were run through the CA DOJ before he was hired.

Mr. Turner’s application didn’t include Van Nuys High or any LAUSD school. Prizant, who oversees Birmingham athletics since 1998, said his exam was negative.

Active Healthy Living Life was retained annually and paid $4,500 a month, per Turner’s contract.

The school refuses to provide any emails or internal discussions about Turner’s behavior or complaints before his September arrest. Principal Ari Bennett couldn’t comment due to litigation.

The school has dealt with sexual misconduct before.

Turner was hired a few months after Scott Silva was convicted of child molestation, sexual battery, false imprisonment, and lewd conduct on a kid. Eighteen student-athletes reported being abused by Silva between 2016 and 2018 when he was jailed.

Prizant, Birmingham’s athletic director, hired Silva and Turner as coaches. Prizant said he knew nothing about Turner’s allegations before his arrest.

In a lawsuit filed against Birmingham and two other schools where Silva had worked, attorneys alleged Birmingham’s administration failed to conduct a thorough background check of Silva that would have uncovered misconduct allegations at the other schools and missed warning signs that could have prevented or limited the abuse when he was hired in August 2009.

Patricia Lynch, a lawyer for Birmingham, said she couldn’t address any charges because there’s still litigation, but she noted the original suit was settled for $18 million with no admission of wrongdoing. She hid where the money came from.

Garo Mardirossian, who represented plaintiffs in the Silva action, filed a new suit on behalf of one of Turner’s accusers last month, using information from Silva’s criminal probe. Teenagers are suing the school, including the lawyer’s client.

Bennett, like Prizant, hired a student abuser.

Terry Gillard is serving 71 years for sexual abuse at a Boys & Girls Club and John H. Francis Polytechnic High, where Bennett was principal. L.A. Unified paid $52 million to resolve a complaint alleging it knew about Gillard’s sexual misbehavior and did nothing.

Over decades, the district has paid $250 million in sexual abuse judgments, settlements, and legal fees. It didn’t comment on the Gillard settlement, which, like Silva’s, didn’t acknowledge wrongdoing.

Bennett let Gillard return to Poly in 2016 after he was accused of sexual harassment and sex for money. No student allegations existed then.

Bennett told The Times in an email that he let Gillard return after an L.A. Unified inquiry was inconclusive and investigators suggested it was up to him to bring back the popular coach. He said investigators’ comments reassured him that students were safe.

Bennett: “The greatest investigators in the district conducted a 6-month investigation.” “They probably interviewed students, parents, Gillard, and the complainant. How could I not bring him back when they gave me the option? Would they have given me the choice if he was a danger to kids or staff?

Read More:

About The Author

Scroll to Top