Ex-teacher accused of sex abuse seeks to block release of employment record

A retired teacher accused of sexually abusing a student is trying to block the public from seeing details of his employment history at the Long Beach Unified School District, including how administrators handled any complaints about him during the time he was working with children.

Thomas Maggio is accused of groping an eighth-grade girl in the computer lab class he taught about 25 years ago at Hughes Middle School. The former student, who is now 39, alleges that while she was in eighth grade, Maggio twice kept her after class, once groping her breast and another time touching her inner thigh before she ran out of the room.

In a lawsuit against the LBUSD and Maggio, the student says the district didn’t properly handle complaints about the teacher, who allegedly had a host of disciplinary issues such as standing too close to female students, bringing pornographic material and alcohol to school, and rubbing girls’ shoulders or keeping them after class in attempts to groom them for abuse.

The lawsuit alleges the LBUSD failed to investigate or act on the complaints about Maggio, which resulted in Maggio being allowed to continue working with children despite being “unfit” for the job.

The former student, who is identified only as Jane Doe in court papers, is able to sue decades after the fact because of a California law that loosened the statute of limitations in sexual abuse cases.

“Frequently, children who are sexually assaulted, it takes them a long time to recognize what happened to them,” the woman’s attorney, James W. Lewis said.

An attorney for Maggio, Richard J. Schwab, declined to comment on the details of the case but said Maggio “denies the allegations and hopes there will be a fair trial.”

It’s not clear what if any action the LBUSD took against Maggio while he worked at Hughes. School officials had agreed to provide at least some details of his personnel file this month in response to a public records request from the Long Beach Post, but that is on hold now that Maggio has petitioned a judge to block their release, saying the information is being sought as part of a “fishing expedition” meant to embarrass him.

The Long Beach Post requested the information in April after learning of the lawsuit against Maggio and the LBUSD. The Post routinely files public records requests for misconduct related to teachers and other government employees, and the LBUSD has previously complied with state law that requires the release of documents in well-founded cases of substantial misconduct.

At Maggio’s request, a Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Mitchell L. Beckloff issued a temporary restraining order on June 14 barring the district from releasing documents in this case until he hears further arguments. The next court date is scheduled for July 6, when the judge is expected to rule on whether to grant a temporary injunction that would stop the records from being released until he can decide whether they should be kept private in perpetuity, as Maggio’s attorneys have requested.

They argue that Maggio, now 73, retired eight years ago and releasing information on “outdated, unproved” complaints against him would not serve the public interest. They also asked the judge to order the LBUSD to cover Maggio’s attorney’s fees.

A spokesman for the LBUSD declined to comment on either court case, saying the district is a “bystander” in the public records fight and “not at liberty to comment” on the sexual abuse case where it is listed as a defendant.

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Jeremiah Dobruck is managing editor for the Long Beach Post. He began his journalism career in 2007 as an intern at Palos Verdes Peninsula News and has worked for The Forum Newsgroup in New York City, the Daily Pilot and the Press-Telegram.
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