District Employee, Parents Question Mar Vista High School Volunteer Check Process

A district employee told NBC 7, Mar Vista High School is not conducting any background checks of volunteers at the school.

Three adults who interacted with students at Mar Vista High School are facing charges for allegedly having sexual contact with minors at the school.

Now, a school district employee tells NBC 7, the South Bay-area high school is not running background checks on its volunteers.

When a Navy Junior ROTC instructor at Mar Vista High School was arrested last month on sex crime allegations, school district officials said Martin Albert Gallegos passed all necessary background checks.

Within weeks, a 27-year-old assistant football coach was also arrested and accused of lewd acts with a 13-year-old student on school property.

A 20-year-old tutor at the school was also arrested on sex crime charges.

A district employee told NBC 7, Mar Vista High School is not conducting any background checks of volunteers at the school.

School administrators do not even know who is coming on and off the campus, particularly for the ROTC program, the district employee said.

The school district could not or would not provide documentation to show otherwise.

A Mar Vista High School parent told NBC 7 it’s unacceptable.

“They're in charge of our children. We send our children here every day, so we expect them to be safe,” said one parent who identified herself as Claudia.

The district spokesman declined an on-camera interview request, but said releasing background material for volunteers would violate the privacy rights of students and third parties.

NBC 7 requested a list of all volunteers who have been cleared with background checks to enter Mar Vista High School for 2014, 2015, and 2016 school years. The district said it was not in possession of the requested document, and so it could not be produced.

NBC 7 also requested background check materials for volunteers for Mar Vista High and sign-in sheets at the school.

The district released the following statement:

“As was set forth in the District’s correspondence, one of the categories of documents requested does not exist and the other two categories of documents cannot be produced without violating privacy rights of students and third parties. The Sweetwater Union High School District appreciates the media’s interest in the documents, but has no further comment other than to reiterate that it is committed to protecting the privacy rights involved.”

A Mar Vista student told NBC 7 that she feels safe at the school.

“I feel safe here. I feel like the teachers are looking out for us,” said student Miram Santiago.

But some parents are saying the school’s response has not been adequate.

A district spokesman said anyone who is hired by the school district undergoes an extensive background check that includes fingerprinting, like all schools in the county. Gallegos and the assistant football coach underwent that background process when they were hired, according to the district.

All three defendants have entered “not guilty” pleas.

A spokeswoman for the nonprofit agency who placed the tutor at Mar Vista High School said that person had been background checked as well.

Contact Us