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Chula Vista teacher accused of groping leaves school with good references

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Posted at 6:32 PM, Jun 11, 2018
and last updated 2018-06-11 21:32:50-04

CHULA VISTA, Calif. (KGTV) - A teacher who was under investigation for groping and sexually harassing students was given good references when he applied to teach elsewhere. 

Voice of San Diego broke the story of Anthony Atienza, Chula Vista High's 2017 Teacher of the Year, publishing the 63-page investigative document that claims his conduct was sexual in nature and was both pervasive and severe, creating a hostile environment for the three female students who complained about his behavior. 

The students claim Atienza leered at their bodies, flirted with them and touched or smacked their backsides.  

According to Voice of San Diego, Atienza was placed on paid administrative leave for the 2017-2018 school year. During that time, he accepted teaching positions at Lakeside Middle School and the Christian Youth Theater, or CYT.  The schools were not warned of the investigation into Atienza's behavior, according to Voice. 

The Managing Director of CYT, Laura Betagnolli confirmed for 10News that Atienza worked for the school.

"The Sweetwater District did not give any indication that he was under investigation when we checked his references. None of our students have ever complained of any questionable behavior by Mr. Atienza. In fact, quite the contrary. All of our students have excelled in classes taught by Mr. Atienza," Betagnolli said.

A former student of Atienza's said she was shocked by the allegations. Melissa Adao said Atienza was "respectful and professional" toward all students and she was thankful that he helped inspire her to become a dancer. 

According to the Voice of San Diego report, Atienza denies the accusations against him. 

10News visited Atienza's home in Chula Vista.  There was a vehicle in the driveway, but nobody answered the bell at his gate.