Sunnyvale school temporarily closed after reported molestation case

SUNNYVALE, Calif. (KTVU) - Concerned parents crowded a Sunnyvale school on a Sunday evening, distressed about the campus molestation of a child, and the lack of staff fingerprint checks the entire time the school has been open.

The Spark Charter School, with 160 students, opened only a month ago, and will be closed Monday because of the background check irregularities.

"Why were 18 year olds allowed to be with our children alone?" asked parent Michelle Martinez, of the three-member school board, at the hastily-called meeting.

The suspect is 18-year-old Jonathan Chow, who worked part time during lunch and after school extended care.

Sunnyvale Police say an eight-year-old girl reported that Chow molested her at school on Tuesday Sept. 16, and that the third-grader reported it to a staff member.

Chow was arrested at school the same day.

"We have evil people in his world, it has nothing to do with our community, we are good people, " declared parent Maya Noe, "and I will not be leaving Spark Charter because of what happened, but I want the school to be clear, I want whatever failed to be remedied."

When authorities looked into Chow's records, they found that background checks, including fingerprints, were not complete.

"We took steps to correct the issue," explained school board president Alexandra Zdravkovic, "and all of our staff was background checked last Friday, and we are making sure we are following procedure."

Santa Clara County's Office of Education sent a representative, who listened and took notes, but declined to comment afterward.

Officials could revoke Spark's charter, but for now, is ordering it closed until background records are in order.

"If it's one day, great," exclaimed grandparent Jonni Giubbini, " but if it's five days or longer that's going to affect all these kids education and that is wrong."

Families also expressed overwhelming support for the school.

"My kids have great teachers and I know they're learning," implored parent Susanna Medley.

Many expressed the hope that the assault - and fall-out - are a bump in the road, not the end of the road. They admitted their confidence was shaken.

"What other procedures, outside of the background checks, what other procedures potentially weren't complied?" wondered parent Alan Lee.

"Why weren't the parents told that this was an issue," queried parent Nathan Merline,"and why weren't the parents given the choice themselves to do what they wanted with that information?

Before the vote was taken to close temporarily, the crowd moved outside, having exceeded the crowd limit for the classroom.

"We will continue, we will make our corrections, I will lead the way," declared superintendent-principal Danni Tsai, to applause.

Tsai has said that a delayed "state identification number" was why fingerprinting didn't happen, but that she was able to intercede and acquire the required number in one day. 

She shrugged and had no response when asked why the school opened without the legally-required documentation.

Jonathan Chow faces several counts including lewd contact, child pornography, and sexual molestation, and police hope there are no other alleged victims.