Seven teachers at Bayside STEAM Academy in Imperial Beach filed complaints with the state, claiming they were recorded by a cell phone hidden in a faculty bathroom, and said the South Bay Union School District could’ve done more to protect them.
How many women or girls were recorded on the cell phone? How often? For how long? are all questions still nagging at Bayside teacher Eva Lopez-Zepeda.
“I was in so much shock,” Lopez-Zepeda said. “I was sick to my stomach. I was shaking because I was angry.”
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The restroom was not in the school but in a separate building on campus. Teacher Tanya Knight said she often used the restroom because it was for women only and required a key.
Both educators, plus five others, brought complaints to the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing after school administrators told them another employee admitted to planting the phone to record women in the restroom.
The complaint states, in part, that an employee, “Engaged in a clandestine scheme of spying on and recording countless nude females using the school’s restrooms. While seated inside a stall, a female Bayside teacher discovered that a hidden cell phone was recording her.”
Knight suspects the recording started sometime in July last year.
The phone was found on Oct. 21, according to the school. Both teachers say the phone was placed in a stall trash bin, between the bin and the liner, with the camera recording through a hole in the trash can. The can was stacked on top of another like it.
The San Diego Sheriff’s Department told NBC 7 they are investigating the incident. The civil rights complaint claims the school district failed to conduct a proper investigation to prevent similar sexual abuse from happening again.
“It was a horrible feeling, a feeling of violation, a trust being taken away,” Lopez-Zepeda said.
Both teachers say returning to work has not been easy.
“I didn’t feel comfortable. I actually had to leave work one day. I don’t know what happened, but I had to leave work and went to Urgent Care,” Knight said.
A male employee admitted to placing the phone and resigned five days after it was discovered, according to both teachers and the complaint.
NBC 7 is not identifying the man because he has not been charged with a crime.
A statement released by Superintendent Jose Espinoza said, in part, “South Bay Union School District takes employee safety and security very seriously and was shocked to learn of the allegations of employee misconduct. The district has fully cooperated with law enforcement in its investigation. In order to protect the privacy rights of all individuals involved, the district is unable to comment further at this time.”