A San Gabriel Unified School District assistant principal is facing charges that he sexually abused two teenagers he coached two decades ago at Woodrow Wilson High School in El Sereno.
Michael Guzman, an assistant principal at Gabrielino High School, has been charged with four felony counts of lewd acts with a child, according to a criminal complaint filed Nov. 30 by county prosecutors. He also is named in a civil suit filed last year by his accusers.
Guzman, who began working in the San Gabriel Unified School district in February, was “immediately placed on unpaid administrative leave pending the outcome of the criminal proceedings and is barred from any district property,” according to a letter sent to parents by San Gabriel Unified Superintendent James Symonds.
There is no information to suggest that the alleged victims are affiliated with Gabrielino High School or any San Gabriel Unified School District campus, Symonds wrote. Woodrow Wilson is part of the Los Angeles Unified School District.
“Hearing that a person entrusted to work with students may have committed a crime such as this is, of course, deeply troubling and disturbing, and our thoughts are with the alleged victim or victims in this case,” Symonds wrote in the letter.
The Los Angeles Police Department’s Hollenbeck Division arrested Guzman, 57, on Nov. 13, according to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department’s inmate locator. He posted $120,000 bond at a subsequent court hearing and was released from custody.
The arrest came nearly a year after the two accusers sued him. Both the criminal and civil cases allege that Guzman, while serving as a teacher and basketball coach at Woodrow Wilson from 1997 to 2000, abused his position to groom, manipulate and sexually assault two of his teenage basketball players. The girls were freshmen in high school when Guzman, in his 30s at the time, began making sexual advances. Neither was old enough to consent to the sexual relationships that followed, the lawsuit states.
Guzman’s attorney in the civil case declined to comment. Guzman, representing himself in July, broadly denied the allegations against him in a filing at the time.
Suit: LAUSD failed to protect students
The lawsuit, filed in December 2022, also names Los Angeles Unified as a defendant. Attorneys for the two victims allege the school district failed to protect its students and either knew, or should have known, about Guzman’s actions.
The lawsuit states that Guzman drove the girls to and from school in his vehicle and was caught by other teachers, coaches and security guards spending time alone with each of them in his classroom, the gym and other locations at the high school. Guzman allegedly took the girls to an attic at the school or to a hotel in San Gabriel to have sex.
Guzman is alleged to have told one of the girls that the principal at the time was aware of his sexual relationship with her, but that he wasn’t concerned because he “had knowledge of sexual misconduct involving the principal and another teacher at Woodrow Wilson High School,” the lawsuit states.
One former teacher apologized decades later for not doing more to stop the “relationship,” according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit indicates Guzman allegedly was being investigated by school officials at the time the suit was filed and was told to refrain from teaching classes.
Unaware of civil suit at hiring
Guzman took the job at San Gabriel Unified just months later. In an email, Symonds said the district was not aware of the civil lawsuit at the time of Guzman’s hiring.
“The District conducts industry standard and legally required background checks for all employees, including for Assistant Principal Michael Guzman,” Symonds said. “These background checks reveal information regarding any criminal convictions or charges and do not include civil lawsuits.”
The criminal complaint against Guzman indicates that his alleged crimes were reported to authorities in May.
He is not scheduled to appear in court again in the criminal case until Jan. 29.