Torrey Pines Elementary School employee removed from school amid 'cookie tasting' allegations

Some parents upset they were not informed

LA JOLLA, Calif. - Team 10 has confirmed an employee at Torrey Pines Elementary School was abruptly removed after accusations involving young students and cookies surfaced.

"Why was this behavior able to occur?" said Sally Smith, an outspoken local child safety advocate.

Smith has plenty questions after she spoke to the mother and author of an email sent to a school district focus group in San Diego looking at safety issues.

In the December email, the mother of a 5th grade girl at Torrey Pines Elementary said at lunchtime an adult employee was recently "asking for food every day" from her daughter and her friends and "watching them eat."

Then, on several other occasions, it went further, the mother said.

"He would bend over, open his mouth and have the children place cookies in his mouth," said Smith.

In the email, the mother describes how her daughter was crying as she explained how creepy the employee was and how she was afraid to make him mad.

On another occasion, the mother said something else happened.

"He singled out a child and gave a toy to the child and said, 'Now we are going steady,'" the mother said in the email.

The mother reported the incidents, sparking a police investigation.

Team 10 learned the employee was abruptly taken out of the school.

"We didn't hear about that. If you don't tell me, I wouldn't know about it," said parent Xing Jian Liu.

Another parent, who didn't want to be identified for fear of retaliation, told Team 10, "I can't believe we wouldn't be informed. I may remove my daughter from this school."

Some frustrated parents told Team 10 they never heard a word about the accusations.

"It's a poor practice not to put the information out to parents. Parents need to be able to talk to their children to see if they've been victimized," said Smith.

Smith calls the cookie tasting possible grooming behavior, pointing to former Los Angeles teacher Mark Berndt, who recently pleaded guilty to abusing 30 students, including cookie-tasting games with cookies laced with his sperm.

In this case, police said there was no evidence of a crime, with the employee claiming he had dirty hands and simply didn't want to touch the cookie.

Team 10 reached out to San Diego Unified School District officials to find out why parents were not notified and whether the employee is still working at another site.

A spokesperson declined comment, saying they do not comment on personnel issues.

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