Supporters Defend Helix High Administrator

Contributory delinquency of runaway student alleged

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    NEWSLETTERS

    TK
    The teacher sex scandals at Helix Charter High School took center stage at a school board meeting Thursday night.

    There's more law enforcement intrigue surrounding Helix Charter High School.

    This time, it involves an assistant principal under investigation stemming from allegations that he aided a runaway 16-year-old female student. It's the fifth police case in the last three years at the school. After four cases involving sexual relationships between teachers and students at Helix Charter, this is a much different set of circumstances, however.

    The assistant principal, identified by multiple sources as Josh Stepner, has been placed on administrative leave with pay pending the outcome of the investigation.

    Supporters Defend Helix High Administrator

    [DGO] Supporters Defend Helix High Administrator
    Is it a case of "here we go again" at Helix High School? Now an administrator is under investigation by police.

    "To date the investigation doesn't indicate any sexual activity, anything involving drugs or alcohol," La Mesa Police Lt. David Bond said. "But some of the actions did -- or it's alleged -- that some actions did contribute to the delinquency of this 16-year-old female minor."

    Some parents, though, highly praised Stepner's professionalism after the news got out on Tuesday.

    Police said the runaway Helix student was gone for several days late last month but that she was not housed or sheltered by Stepner.

    A charge of contributing to her delinquency -- if filed by prosecutors -- would be a misdemeanor, not a felony.

    Given all that the Helix Charter community has been through with staff-and-student issues, the news is another unwelcome development, though.

    "I think [Stepner] shouldn't have helped the kid," said Kaya Todd, a senior at Helix Charter High. "He should've talked to them, talked to the family together. It's not right to send the student away when they're living with their parents."

    Tammy Madore, who has a son enrolled at Helix Charter, had a different viewpoint.

    "I personally know [Stepner] myself and do not see the fine father that he is allowing or putting in to help a runaway," Madore said.

    Added Linda Ibarra, who also has a son at the school: "He's an amazing counselor, and whatever he was doing, I'm almost positive that was what he thought was in the best interest of this student."

    Officials with Helix Charter declined to speak on camera. The principal issued a statement just before noon Tuesday. Click here to read the entire statement.

    A representative for the school said officials can not say anything beyond that.

    Unfortunately, scandals are nothing new at Helix Charter High School. Between 2006 and 2008, four teachers were arrested and convicted of sexual misconduct with students.

    Band director Jessica Kahal, 22, was arrested in October 2007 for having sexing with a 17-year old student. She pleaded guilty in February of 2008 and received three years probation.

    In December 2006, Frank Palumbo, a band teacher, received five years probation after pleading guilty to having sex with a 17-year old student.

    In May 2008 a geography teacher and coach of the girl's soccer team was arrested for having sex with a student in a hotel room. Garry Wilcox, 44, taught at the school for 13 years and was accused of having sex with the student when she was 16 or 17 years old. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced in August 2008 to one year in custody followed by probation.

    In September 2009, Jeff Wenham, a former Helix High School Advisor, pleaded guilty to committing a lewd act on a minor after his relationship with a 17-year old female student was discovered. In this case, the student had come to Wenham for help to get out of a sexual relationship with another Helix teacher.

    Wenham received three years probation.