A former Jordan High School teacher and athletic director who resigned two years ago amid a misconduct investigation has been arrested on suspicion of sexually abusing a 13-year-old in a separate case.
Mark Anthony Santo was taken into custody Monday, but he’s been followed by allegations about a different potential sexual assault since 2018 when a former student accused him of forcing oral sex on her at his home, according to court records obtained by the Long Beach Post.
Authorities said they were unable to charge Santo with any crime in the 2018 case because they lost contact with the accuser after her initial interview with police.
But her allegations led to Santo’s suspension and resignation, records show. Despite that, Santo was able to secure a new job in education this year.
Santo is currently teaching online classes through a community college district in Orange County, according to Jennifer Perez, campus communications director for the Anaheim-based North Orange Continuing Education.
He’s responsible for three classes designed to teach life skills like money management to students with developmental and learning disabilities, according to Perez.
Perez declined to say whether college administrators knew Santo was under investigation when he left Jordan, but records obtained by the Post show the Long Beach Unified School District promised Santo it would provide few if any details about the accusations to potential employers.
If Santo were applying for a job to work with students under 18, the LBUSD agreed to tell the employer only that Santo “voluntarily resigned pending allegations of misconduct involving a student,” the contract states.
If Santo were applying for a job working with students over 18, the district was barred from mentioning the allegations at all.
LBUSD spokesman Chris Eftychiou declined to explain why the district struck that deal with Santo.
He said the district was able to provide Santo’s resignation agreement to the Post only because it was legally required to under California’s public records laws. But, he continued, the district was prohibited from explaining the decision-making that went into the contract.
“In general, however, districts are under legal restrictions about the types of references they can give,” he said. “Districts often resolve this issue by informing a potential employer who works with minors that someone resigned while charges of misconduct with a student were pending.”
New allegations surface after resignation
Police provided few details about the new case against Santo. Prosecutors said it stemmed from an incident in October 2015 when he allegedly sexually assaulted a 13-year-old family friend at his home.
He was charged Friday with one count of lewd acts with a child under 14, a felony that can carry 3 to 8 years of prison time. The public defender who represented Santo at a hearing Tuesday morning didn’t immediately respond to a phone call, but a court clerk said Santo entered a not guilty plea. He’s being held on $100,000 bail, jail records show.
It’s unclear if the charge is connected in any way to Santo’s work at the LBUSD. The victim appears to be a different person than the former student who previously accused Santo, although she was also a family friend, according to court documents. Both are listed in legal filings by their first names only.
Past infractions with students
Santo has a history of alleged inappropriate behavior at Long Beach Unified schools. The district provided portions of Santo’s disciplinary record after the Long Beach Post filed public records requests and referenced court cases showing they were public documents.
However, officials—citing student confidentiality laws—withheld significant portions of the documents that describe the accusations against Santo and the extent of the district’s investigation into them.
The earliest document released shows Santo was reprimanded in 2013 while teaching at Lindbergh Middle School. The principal at the time, Connie Magee, told him to stop “liking” female students’ photos on Instagram.
Magee told Santo to limit his communication with students to approved school channels and said Santo needed to change his Instagram handle to something other than @msanto69, which could be seen as suggestive even though he was born in 1969.
“Continuing to use Instagram with students and the user name ‘msanto69’ puts you at risk for possible sexual harassment allegations,” Magee wrote in a warning note.
Santo was again under scrutiny in February 2018. Records show that’s when Jordan Principal Veronica Coleman met with Santo to tell him he should be “less demonstrative” with students after another teacher overheard three girls talking about Santo hugging them.
During that meeting, Santo admitted that he “recently made an error in judgment and engaged in a one time sexual act” with a former LBUSD student who was 18 years old, Coleman wrote in a letter reiterating what happened at their meeting and informing Santo he was being immediately removed from the classroom.
In court documents, police say the student described that encounter very differently.
The student told a detective she’d known Santo since she was in seventh grade at Lindbergh Middle School, according to a warrant police wrote asking for permission to search Santo’s Instagram and Facebook accounts.
In the warrant, police describe an escalating pattern of sexually abusive behavior by Santo toward her.
She alleged Santo sent her inappropriate photos of himself along with lewd comments when she was 15 or 16 years old. She said Santo later tried to kiss her and pull her pants down in a Jordan classroom, police wrote.
Finally, she told police that in February 2018, Santo forced oral sex on her while she was at his home.
Days later, Santo had his meeting with Coleman. By April, school officials moved to fire him and Santo agreed to resign.
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