Principal gives emotional testimony in sex abuse case

November 1, 2012 7:51:19 PM PDT
There was some emotional testimony Thursday as a former elementary school principal in the South Bay took the stand. She tried to explain to the jury why she did not report a disturbing incident involving a teacher. That teacher is now accused of multiple felony counts of child abuse.

Lyn Vijayendran is the former principal at O.B. Whaley Elementary School in San Jose and took the stand, crying at times, as the first witness in her own defense.

"They've seen who Lyn is now dedicated, honest, professional, who had nothing but the students best interests at heart," said Eric Geffon, Vijayendran's defense attorney.

In October 2011, one of those students, a third grader, came to her and described a disturbing incident involving her teacher, Craig Chandler.

The former principal took notes of that conversation and under cross-examination, Deputy District Attorney Alison Filo highlighted items from those notes -- specially, that the 8-year-old said Chandler blindfolded her and told her to "lie down on the floor right there... open your two legs" and the student said, "First he put gooey something in my mouth, then he wiggled my body back and forth and my head."

"The notes speak for themselves. And I cannot imagine that a reasonable person didn't understand or recognize that what was being described there as a sexual act," said Filo.

The defendant says initially she was concerned, but testified Chandler convinced her the activity was part of a lesson plan involving Helen Keller, sensory deprivation and empathy for the disabled. Defense attorney Eric Geffon says the girl's mother and a district administrator also did not suspect child abuse.

"I don't think anybody did anything wrong. I think that the more people who knew about it and didn't think there was anything criminal, the more reasonable the conclusion is," said Geffon.

The prosecution says Vijayendran should have known better, especially when the child's Cantonese mother brought in her daughter's jacket with a whitish/clear stain -- liquid the girl says chandler put in her mouth.

"She made a horrible mistake and what we are really hoping other administrators and other teachers won't make the same mistake," said Filo.

Attorneys will present closing arguments on Friday. If the jury convicts Vijayendran on the one misdemeanor count, she could face up to six months in jail.

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