Teacher accused of filming girls in bathroom

March 11, 2008 6:40:38 PM PDT
Students at a Peninsula high school are appalled to learn one of their teachers may have put a video camera in the girls' bathroom. Millbrae police say a 35-year-old English teacher, David Lista, confessed to videotaping girls with cameras he installed in the main bathroom at Mills High School.

Millbrae police searched Lista's Belmont apartment Thursday evening. Investigators would say only that they found a small amount of methamphetamine and drug paraphernalia.

Lista was arrested on the drug charges and was released on $10,000 bail Friday morning. He had taught English at Mills High School for the past six to seven years. Lista was also an advisor to the student leadership council.

"He seemed like a great guy. He was a leadership teacher, too, and he did a lot for the school," said Aliki Courcoumelis, a student.

On Thursday, an I.T. employee was working on the school server, trying to find out why so much memory was being used on certain computers, including Lista's.

"He was working with the server and the computers and identified the problem at that computer and then the images came up," said School District Superintendent David Miller.

Police told school administrators that the video shows 19 women, presumably female students, in a restroom.

Superintendent Miller says three have been identified.

"The principal met with the parents of the three young ladies who were identifiable in the film to let them know that they had been identified by the two female assistant principals," said Miller.

Superintendent Miller says the camera was installed above the toilet stalls. He says the owner of the camera gained access to the ceiling from an adjacent store room.

Parents of students learned about the incident from a letter sent by Superintendent Miller.

"I mean, school's supposed to be a safe place and to have people like this kind of sends off the wrong message and it's not right," said Eleni Courcoumelis, a student.

Authorities are trying to determine what charges, if any, Lista faces. Under state law, shooting and possessing obscene images are only misdemeanors.

"The felony occurs when you have any copying, distributing or transfer of it from a cell phone to a home computer. That can elevate it to a felony," said Chief Deputy District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe.

Wagstaffe explains that even if a person photographed obscene material and sent it to his own computer, that would also be considered a possible felony.

Investigators are trying to determine if Lista transferred or copied the material. If he did, he might be charged with a felony.

According to Superintendent Miller, Lista has confessed to police that he did shoot the video. In fact, we are told by one source there may be another video.

Lista did not return our calls for an interview.