The Contra Costa County District Attorney’s Office will not be issuing criminal charges against former Woodside Elementary School Principal Jennifer Sachs, regarding her handling of the conduct of teacher Joseph Martin, in 2004-2006, and any alleged “failure to report” suspected child abuse to the Concord Police Dept.
The following information is from the Office of Contra Costa County District Attorney Mark Peterson:
Before making this decision, the District Attorney’s Office reviewed the Concord Police Department’s report regarding its investigation of Sachs, as well as memorandums of investigations and conferences conducted by Mt. Diablo Unified School District officials in 2006.
The initial bar to a criminal prosecution for a failure to report by Sachs (or of any Mt. Diablo Unified School District official, for that matter) is the statute of limitations. The crime of failing to report to law enforcement authorities a reasonable suspicion of child abuse or neglect is punishable as a misdemeanor. Prosecution for a misdemeanor offense must begin within one year of the failure to report, per the statute of limitations. The acts alleged in this Concord Police Department investigation show that any alleged criminal violations by Ms. Sachs or others, with respect to their alleged failure to report, took place back in 2006. Therefore, the statute of limitations bars any criminal prosecution of Ms. Sachs for her alleged failure to report conduct back in 2006. Further, the statute of limitations is only “tolled” if it can be proven that the person intentionally concealed their failure to report an incident known by the mandated reporter to be abuse. (Penal Code section 11166 c). Such is not the case here.
Additionally, a prosecutor may prosecute an individual only where there is sufficient evidence to prove a criminal charge beyond a reasonable doubt. In this case, there is insufficient evidence to prove Ms. Sachs intentionally knew, or harbored reasonable suspicion, of abuse by Mr. Martin of his students in 2006. Nevertheless, the District Attorney’s Office reminds all mandated reporters that where there is actual knowledge, or reasonable suspicion, of child abuse or neglect, they are obligated to report to law enforcement and child welfare officials.
District Attorney Mark Peterson met on April 17th with numerous School District Superintendents in Contra Costa County and county schools Superintendent Joe Ovick to discuss comprehensive training of school employees to make certain every employee understands their mandated reporting responsibilities.
The goal of the Office of District Attorney is that our office, together with law enforcement agencies, and school officials, can develop a uniform, effective training program for all of the mandated reporters in each of the school districts in this county, which will ensure that suspected child abuse is properly reported as soon as possible.