Two school officials in the Los Angeles area are facing felony charges for not notifying police after three students reported multiple on-campus sexual assaults by one of their classmates.
David Shenhan Yang, 38, and Natasha Harris, 37, were arrested Wednesday afternoon at Rialto, California’s Wilmer Amina Carter High School, where they both serve as assistant vice principals. The two were booked into the West Valley Detention Center on one count of child abuse under conditions likely to cause great bodily injury or death, and two misdemeanor counts of failure to report child abuse or neglect.
Harris was released shortly before 6 a.m. Thursday morning, and Yang was let go a few hours later, according to jail records.
On Feb. 16, local police were notified that a 15-year-old girl at Carter High had been sexually assaulted by a 17-year-old student “several times over the past three months,” the Rialto PD said in a statement provided to The Daily Beast. “When detectives investigated the allegations they learned there were two additional female students, ages 15 and 16, who were sexually assaulted by the same suspect.”
But investigators soon learned that the first girl had informed Yang and Harris of the alleged assaults in November 2021. A month earlier, one of the other two girls told Yang and Harris that the same student had assaulted her, according to police. The third victim, who cops say didn’t report her assault to the school, came forward earlier this month.
The alleged attacker, who has not been publicly identified because he is a minor, was given a citation and released to his parents, pending criminal charges to be filed later.
In a video posted on Monday to TikTok, Stephanie Olvera pleaded with the public to “please help me share my daughter’s…story,” accusing the school of “cover[ing] up for the student because he was considered a son to the vice principal so for that reason they convince my daughter to keep quiet…If not, she would be expelled…they failed to protect my daughter and she has not been herself ever since.”
In the footage, Olvera, who said she was the one who called police when the school didn’t, can be seen angrily confronting an unidentified Carter High administrator about the school’s inaction.
“You told me I had nothing to worry about, you told me I didn’t need to leave my job,” Olvera shouts. “How dare you? My daughter was traumatized by the time I got home. How dare you tell me I have nothing to worry about?... Are you a mom? Well, what type of mom are you? How dare you? How dare you not call the cops…for her defense?”
Olvera’s daughter was told by a member of the faculty that she may have been assaulted because of “the way you’re dressed,” according to the girl’s father.
The administrator goes on to tell Olvera that her daughter was “scared to tell you,” and didn’t want the school to say anything.
However, it’s not up to the school to withhold such information.
“As mandated reporters, both Harris and Yang are required by California State Law to immediately alert law enforcement of child abuse or neglect,” the Rialto PD statement says.
The girl has reportedly not been back to school since the police report was filed.
In California, school personnel, along with medical professionals, child care providers, social workers, athletic coaches, and clergy, have an obligation to report any allegation like the ones made at Carter High, regardless of circumstances.
“It is not the job of the mandated reporter to determine whether the allegations are valid,” according to the California Department of Education. “If child abuse or neglect is reasonably suspected or if a pupil shares information with a mandated reporter leading him/her to believe abuse or neglect has taken place, the report must be made. No supervisor or administrator can impede or inhibit a report or subject the reporting person to any sanction.”
Recently, five administrators at a private Christian school in Midland, Texas, were arrested and charged with felonies for failing to notify authorities after a ninth-grader reported enduring a horrific locker room sex attack at the hands of an older student.
Before retiring from the force in 2020, Moses Castillo was a detective on the LAPD’s Sexually Exploited Child Unit. News of the allegations at Carter High was extremely unwelcome—but not much of a shock, he said.
“Unfortunately, this is not the first time or the last time this will occur as it relates to the culture among school officials—primarily those in management,” Castillo told The Daily Beast. “And here we are again, with not one, but two school officials.”
Castillo, who now works as an attorney’s investigator, said the school could have avoided a world of trouble if it had done the right thing from the get-go, in addition to preventing others from being victimized.
“Not only did they fail the victims, but the perpetrator [apparently] felt he could do it because nothing was happening, which empowered him even more,” Castillo said. “Whenever a child goes to a school administrator and has the courage to tell them what happened, and they do nothing, it’s like re-victimizing that person all over again.”
For Yang and Harris themselves to be charged with felonies for the sexual assaults in addition to the failure-to-report misdemeanors—essentially transferring the suspect’s criminal charges onto the pair—is a novel move by prosecutors, according to lawyer Samuel Dordulian, a former sex crimes prosecutor with the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office now in private practice.
“The theory is, if you stay quiet, you’re actually inflicting harm on the child,” Dordulian told The Daily Beast. “As a prosecutor of 18 years, I can’t say I really saw a similar situation with the [state’s] child abuse statute being used [this way]. I applaud this action by the DA—it’s a warning shot to other school administrators that you can’t keep quiet.”
Not reporting the alleged attacks also opens up the school, as well as Yang and Harris personally, to lawsuits if the victims decide to file a civil complaint.
“Often, allegations of sexual assault or neglect are first shared with a friend, fellow student, or school personnel,” David P. Shapiro, a criminal defense lawyer in San Diego, told The Daily Beast. “When school administrators or teachers fail to perform their duty, as is alleged here, liability follows.”
In a statement, San Bernardino County District Attorney Jason Anderson said the allegations against Yang and Harris undermine “the trust that students and parents alike should have regarding the safety and protection of all the children in their care. Their failure as mandated reporters to notify law enforcement lead to further victimization of two students, and the sexual assault of a third victim, which was preventable.”
In a separate statement, Syeda Jafri, a spokeswoman for the Rialto Unified School District said, “The safety and well-being of students is our number one priority. Accordingly, these allegations are taken with extreme seriousness. The District will continue its internal investigation until all the facts related to this matter are brought to light. We will also continue to work with local authorities as they conduct their own investigation.”
Yang and Harris do not have attorneys listed in court records, and The Daily Beast’s efforts on Thursday to reach them for comment via phone and email were unsuccessful. It is unknown if the two remain on the job or have been put on leave.