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Administrators at the Guadalupe Union School District took 29 days to notify parents of the arrest of a district math teacher on a lewd conduct charge, according to documents obtained through a Public Records Act request.

Documents also show that when parents were notified, the charge, which constitutes a "sex offense" under California Education Code, was never relayed to parents. 

James Ungricht, 35, a math teacher at Kermit McKenzie Junior High in Guadalupe, was arrested Oct. 18 at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo on charges of misdemeanor lewd and dissolute conduct in a public place. He pleaded not guilty to the charges during his Nov. 16 arraignment at the San Luis Obispo County Superior Court, which allege he "unlawfully engage[d] in lewd and dissolute conduct" in public during an Oct. 3 incident at the campus library.

In an Oct. 18 letter from Guadalupe Union Superintendent Ed Cora, Ungricht was informed that he would be placed on paid administrative leave beginning Oct. 19 as a result of his arrest. 

"While you are on administrative leave, you are relieved of all duties and responsibilities as a teacher for the Guadalupe Union School District," Cora's letter read. Ungricht was instructed to immediately surrender all district-issued property — including keys and ID cards — prohibited from entering McKenzie Junior High and communicating with any of the school's students or parents.

Ungricht posted $10,000 bail Oct. 23 and has remained out of custody since. A letter addressed to the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing, dated Oct. 25, indicates that the district immediately placed Ungricht on compulsory unpaid leave upon learning the charge.

"It was unclear at the time whether Mr. Ungricht was being charged with a crime, and if so, with what criminal charge," Cora's letter read. "On Oct. 24, the district received a copy of the criminal complaint against Mr. Ungricht, charging him with a violation of Penal Code section 647(a). Mr. Ungricht was placed on unpaid leave this morning, Oct. 25."

Ungricht was informed of his unpaid leave the same morning, via a separate letter from Cora. Cora's letter explained that lewd and dissolute conduct is considered a "sex offense" by California Education Code, and is grounds for immediate and compulsory unpaid leave.

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District parents were first notified of "possible issues concerning a district teacher" on Nov. 16, 29 days after Ungricht was first placed on leave. In his Nov. 16 letter, Cora informed district parents that a teacher was placed on administrative leave pending investigation. The letter did not identify Ungricht nor mention the reason for his leave.

"There is currently no evidence suggesting that the teacher's conduct involves district students or schools," Cora's letter read. "The district will take all necessary and advisable steps to assure student safety while the investigation proceeds ... and we will keep the teacher on leave and off campus until [it concludes.]"

When reached Wednesday, Cora would not comment further on the terms of Ungricht's leave or the district's handling of the incident.

Ungricht appeared in San Luis Obispo County Superior Court on Thursday for a pretrial conference. He is due back in court on Feb. 15. His teaching credential is currently suspended and he remains on leave from the district.

Mathew Burciaga covers education in Santa Maria and the surrounding area for Lee Central Coast Newspapers. Follow him on Twitter @math_burciaga


Education Reporter

Santa Maria Times reporter Mathew Burciaga covers education for Lee Central Coast Newspapers.