Families Sue School District Over Lewd Acts by Janitor

SOUTH PASADENA (CNS) - Relatives of seven students who said they were fondled or molested by a middle school janitor announced a lawsuit today accusing the Bassett Unified School District of negligent hiring and supervision. 

The janitor, 60-year-old Michael Anthony Barry, of La Puente, was sentenced Tuesday to 14 years in prison. He pleaded no contest Nov. 8 to five felony counts of lewd acts on a child, five misdemeanor counts of child molesting and one misdemeanor count of contributing to the delinquency of a minor. 

The crimes -- involving girls ranging in age from 10 to 12 -- occurred at Torch Middle School in Industry between August 2014 and June 2015, and August 2016 and May 2017, according to Deputy District Attorney Babette Huley. At a South Pasadena news conference announcing the lawsuit, parents who did not want to be identified said their children were traumatized.

``I send my daughter to school to learn, not to be touched by a pervert,'' one mother said. One woman said her daughter would wear a hoodie sweatshirt to school even in hot weather, and Barry would stick his hands inside the sweater and lower them to her pants. 

A father told reporters that Barry will be able to leave prison in 14 years, but ``our daughters, our kids, they're going to serve a life sentence.''

At a news conference last year after Barry's arrest, Los Angeles County sheriff's Lt. Todd Deeds of the Special Victims Bureau said Barry ``would befriend the victims and be very nice to the victims, and he would do things like offer them candy and just be very kind to them, and he gained their trust as a result.''

The school district issued a statement following Tuesday's sentencing hearing saying, ``It is our hope that the 14-year sentence handed down today provides closure to the victims and allows our community a chance to recover together. Bassett Unified remains committed to ensuring the safety and security of all of our students, and we are determined to shield our students from acts of any kind that put them at risk.''After Barry's arrest last year, district officials said the sheriff's department was contacted immediately after the allegations of improper conduct were made.

``Bassett Unified has a zero-tolerance policy for acts of any kind that put our students in danger ...,'' Superintendent Debra French said at the time.

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