ROSEMEAD, Calif. - The quad at Rosemead High was packed with students Friday during lunchtime as they demanded change and expressed anger at the El Monte Union High School District after the publication of an article written by a former Rosemead student on BusinessInsider.com.
The topic of the article was about former journalism teacher, Eric Burgess, who left in 2019 after being the target of an investigation alleging inappropriate sexual relationships with students and recently graduated students.
The article’s author, Matt Drange, started research years ago after hearing that a teacher had sex with an 18-year-old female student on campus.
When Drange found out the teacher in question was his own journalism instructor, he began a multi-year investigation that speaks as much about serious allegations against Burgess, as it does about a culture of inappropriate behavior allowed at Rosemead and other schools.
During a Zoom interview with FOX 11, Drange talked about how difficult it was to do this story, considering Burgess’s role starting his interest on what has become his career. He is also a clear supporter of his alma mater, but clearly disturbed by what he has uncovered for the lengthy article… especially when it comes to the district’s response to allegations he says they knew about for years, before acting on them.
"I've confirmed three former students that he had relationships with. In the case of two women, it was immediately after they graduated, they told me, so in a matter of weeks after they graduated. In the case of one woman, it was while she was still a student and 16-years-old," Drange said.
District superintendent Dr. Edwuard Zuniga sent FOX 11 the following statement which read in part, "El Monte Union High School District is aware of online articles about a former teacher at Rosemead High School. State and federal laws protect the confidentiality of student and employee records, as well as complainant information. As a result, the District is legally prohibited from providing any details of what occurred. What the District can share is that it took prompt action when it was made aware of the allegations in 2019 and removed the subject teacher from the classroom and conducted a thorough investigation. The allegations were reported to the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services, and the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and the El Monte Police."
School officials say they notified law enforcement and removed Burgess from permanent district employment within 24 hours.
But Drange says otherwise, "Current principal Brian Bristol was made aware of allegations that I found to be true in 2018, so for the district superintendent to say they took action in 2019, that’s a year that went by where Eric Burgess was still in the classroom, still around children."
"The District is dedicated to creating a safe, secure environment in which our students can thrive. All District employees are subjected to a rigorous screening process, including a California Department of Justice background check, and the District continues to monitor the criminal backgrounds of all employees. The District has taken steps to institute strict guidelines for student and staff interactions, both on and off District property, and requires extensive and regular training, including mandated reporting, sexual harassment prevention and student-employee interaction training," the statement went on to say.
Our attempts to reach Burgess have been unsuccessful.