Israel Ayala Lopez, 26, the school’s P.E. teacher since 2017, was arrested last week and charged with four counts of unlawful sexual intercourse with a 15 year old student, and four counts of lewd/lascivious acts upon a child for sexual gratification (where the child is 14/15 and the suspect is 10 years or older than the child.).
The student reported the information to a school resource officer, who followed up and communicated with the principal and district and determined an arrest needed to be made, police said. The criminal counts allegedly span back to April, according the San Francisco Chronicle.
In response to the charges, the West Contra Costa Unified School District placed Lopez on leave.
Like the district, teachers expressed sadness and disappointment over the charges in their statement Thursday.
“We must take responsibility for the wrongs this teacher has been charged with and support the students and families,” according to the statement, which is posted full below. “As educators of Richmond High School, we will not tolerate victim blaming or cyberbullying, and we will work to help our students understand the complex power dynamics that were abused to harm one of our students.”
The United Teachers of Richmond, the union representing Richmond High educators, added, “When one person make a horrible decision others, in this case many others, are left to repair the damage done to the community, especially to the students.”
The RHS teachers’ statement in full:
To the Richmond and San Pablo community:
This long overdue letter comes after multiple days of anguish, grief, confusion, sadness, anger and disappointment. The recent events surrounding Mr. Israel Ayala Lopez and a student of ours have left us shaken to our core. As a school community, we believe it is our responsibility to believe and support our students.
At Richmond High School, we have been working diligently to create safe and academically enriching spaces that provide students with the best opportunities for fulfilling their own potential. This includes building trusting and appropriate relationships among students and staff. The actions that Mr. Ayala has been charged with is causing great harm to the progress we have made as a Richmond High Staff. We recognize that our school’s trust with the community, and most importantly our students, has been broken. Mr. Ayala was a member of our family and the actions he is charged with abused the immense privilege we have as educators. This incident jeopardizes the relationship we work tirelessly to build with students, families and staff. We recognize it will take time to restore the harm that has been done.
The process of restoring the harm committed is not simple. We must take responsibility for the wrongs this teacher has been charged with and support the students and families. As educators of Richmond High School, we will not tolerate victim blaming or cyberbullying, and we will work to help our students understand the complex power dynamics that were abused to harm one of our students. We are dedicated to improving the academic, social and emotional being of our students throughout our training in Restorative Justice and culturally responsive teaching.
We encourage you to ask your students about the conversations they are holding in our classrooms. Some of these discussions include:
– Resources available at school for student safety and mental health
– How to report inappropriate behavior
– Victim blaming and shaming
– Power dynamics and teacher responsibility
We welcome all questions, concerns, and suggestions from the community as we ground ourselves in an effort to build a truly community based school with community interests at heart.
Concerned Teachers from Richmond High School