News


Palo Alto teacher arrested for alleged sex crimes

Paly biology teacher suspected of assaulting 15-year-old student

A Palo Alto High School science teacher who allegedly touched a student in a classroom at the end of the school year was arrested by police on Wednesday night, June 15, for committing sex crimes against a minor.

Palo Alto police received a call on Monday, June 13, at about 8:44 p.m. from a parent who said their 15-year-old daughter had been assaulted by a teacher. The victim had recently completed ninth grade at Paly, and the suspect had been her biology teacher during her freshman year, which ended on June 2, according to police.

An investigation revealed that teacher Ronnie Farrell, 46, of Palo Alto, had been communicating with the victim using social media. He asked the victim to meet him at Paly on Tuesday, June 7, at 9 a.m. The victim regularly helped her teachers with chores in the classroom, and she agreed to meet him, police said.

Farrell allegedly led the victim to his classroom, where the two of them were alone. After conversing with the girl, Farrell allegedly put his hands under the victim's clothes and touched her breasts. He also allegedly took one of her hands and placed it on his groin over his clothing. He eventually told the victim to leave the classroom, police said.

Detectives who began investigating the case immediately after the parent's complaint found that Farrell continued corresponding with the victim via social media. He arranged to meet her at Paly on the evening of June 15. Detectives were there to meet him instead and took him into custody without incident, police said in a statement.

Farrell was booked into the Santa Clara County Main Jail for four felony charges: child molestation, sexual battery, communicating with a minor with the intent to commit a sex crime, and arranging a meeting with a minor with the intent to commit a sex crime.

Farrell posted $250,000 bail on June 16 and is out of custody, according to Sgt. James Jensen, public information officer for the Santa Clara County Office of the Sheriff.

Farrell is a full-time employee of the Palo Alto Unified School District. He has taught biology and chemistry at Paly since 2012, according to the district, and was made a permanent staff member in the 2014-15 school year. Paly was his first teaching job, according to the district's communications coordinator, Jorge Quintana. Quintana said he believed Farrell "transitioned from the private sector." Quintana later said he had been a senior network administrator with Rockefeller Group Telecommunications Services in New York.

District officials learned of the allegations and of Farrell's arrest on Wednesday evening after being notified by police, Superintendent Max McGee said. Police Chief Dennis Burns called McGee a few times as the incident unfolded.

"I am really appreciative that they reached out to us so quickly and in such detail," McGee said.

The district is immediately putting Farrell on compulsory unpaid leave, McGee said, and will be consulting with an attorney about "any further action that we can legally (take)."

Farrell is not teaching any summer session classes.

McGee said the district has not received any previous complaints about Farrell nor any indication that he engaged in this kind of behavior.

"This was a surprise, I think, to everyone," he told the Weekly.

He added that the district's student-services department and Paly Principal Kim Diorio have been in touch with the student's family.

"What's most important is the well-being of this young lady. I trust that she'll have the support and help of (her) family and certainly of our whole school community," McGee said.

Diorio sent a message about Farrell's arrest to students and parents on Thursday.

"Like you, I was shocked and deeply saddened to first learn of this news," she wrote. "I'm at a loss for words except to say how incredibly saddened I am."

Noting that Farrell is a "well-liked and respected" teacher, Diorio encouraged students to "reach out to your parents, relatives, friends and/or other members of your support network over the coming months, and know that the safety of our students will always remain our number one priority."

She urged parents to "create time and a safe space for our children, especially those who had Mr. Farrell as a teacher, to process and discuss their feelings," particularly given the fact that school is out of session. She said grade-level counselors are available to help students who might need support returning to Paly, and pointed parents to an online list of counseling and crisis resources.

Farrell has a wife and two daughters, according to his Facebook page. He emigrated to the U.S. from Scotland as a teenager, according to an Oct. 11, 2015, profile in Paly's student magazine, Verde.

Farrell described his own teen years during that interview. When asked what advice he would give to his teen self, Farrell was quoted as saying: "Who needs girls? You know? If there was one thing that was rough for me in high school it was I don't think one girl ever looked at me. I think one who was blind actually turned away. It was pretty bad. So if I was to give myself some advice it would be, 'You know what, Ronnie? You're going to do alright in your 20s. Hang in there, buddy. Hang in there.'"

Farrell continued his interview in a lighthearted vein. He said that his most awkward moment as a teen student was his first or second day of high school in America.

"An eraser in Scotland is called a rubber, and I asked my teacher for a rubber in front of the class -- and that was pretty awkward. The whole class kind of just gasped and I was like, 'I made a mistake. I need a rubber,' and that didn't help. And eventually, I figured that out and I never asked for a rubber again, at least from a teacher," he said.

Students gave Farrell overwhelming positive reviews on RateMyTeachers.com, calling him a "terrific" and "funny" teacher who "really knows his material and really cares about his students."

Police said in a statement that detectives are not aware of any additional victims at this time.

Anyone who believes that their child may be a victim is asked to call the police department's 24-hour dispatch center at 650-329-2413. Anyone with information about this incident is also asked to call the dispatch center. Anonymous tips can be emailed to paloalto@tipnow.org or sent by text message or voice mail to 650-383-8984.

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Comments

44 people like this
Posted by Palo Alto teacher arrested for alleged sex crimes
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 16, 2016 at 10:10 am

What is going on at Paly with all of these incidents of teacher sexual abuse?

[Portion removed.]. Given how the Teachers Union protects its own, we would be lucky to see the perpetrators given punishments as severe as the Turner case (Sarcasm implied)


14 people like this
Posted by parent
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 16, 2016 at 10:15 am

Creepy


47 people like this
Posted by JustDoIt
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 16, 2016 at 10:28 am

[Post removed.]


25 people like this
Posted by Concerned Coach
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 16, 2016 at 10:34 am

Concerned Coach is a registered user.

WoW - Paly seems to have more than their share of these types of incidents.


11 people like this
Posted by Concerned Coach
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 16, 2016 at 10:37 am

Concerned Coach is a registered user.

Does this go on more at Paly than other HS's?


57 people like this
Posted by JustDoIt
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 16, 2016 at 10:39 am

Perhaps the School Board's strategy of throwing money at the Teachers' Union and administrators (remember Phil Winston?) isn't getting us the best teachers and administrators after all.

Maybe we should spend money on other things.


23 people like this
Posted by what do you expect?
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 16, 2016 at 10:44 am

imagine that - Palo Alto parents against unions? there could be some hope.

public schools don't cut it for a lot of reasons. unions are one reason - stressed out kids another - and now this is the latest.

school choice and vouchers to give kids and parents choice. let the dollars do the walking and everyone will end up better due to competition.


30 people like this
Posted by Holy Cow
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 16, 2016 at 10:48 am

Holy Cow is a registered user.

One more reason I am SO glad I invested in a private school for my two kids!


33 people like this
Posted by Paly Alum
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jun 16, 2016 at 10:55 am

Very unfortunate because he was a really good Chem teacher and really cared! In a weak department, he was a star teacher. Other teachers in his department, I'd say good riddance. Why, oh why, Mr. Farrell?! How could you do this to yourself and strand us with the rest?!


29 people like this
Posted by concerned
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jun 16, 2016 at 10:55 am

Concerned that you edited this story from its initial publication content. The original, as your know, and now readers don't, included a quote from Ferell from a Verde profile in which he complained about not getting girls in high school and told a sexually suggestive story about asking a teacher for an erasure which he called a rubber. It quoted him as saying it was the last time he asked for a rubber. ' At least from a teacher". The quotes were quite revealing. They should have been left in the article. It is also standard journalistic policy to show the article has been updated or edited. Fail for you.

Editor's note: The referenced content was temporarily removed for further internal review and it has now been re-inserted into the story along with a link to the Verde interview.


61 people like this
Posted by Another
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jun 16, 2016 at 10:57 am

Holy Cow, private schools are not immune to these kinds of incidents, not by a long shot. Just take a look at all the recent revelations from so many elite East Coast prep schools (Web Link).


13 people like this
Posted by vini
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 16, 2016 at 10:57 am

such terrible and discouraging news coming out almost every summer from my child's alma mater of... I am saddened beyond words.


30 people like this
Posted by Palo Alto high school student
a resident of Esther Clark Park
on Jun 16, 2016 at 10:57 am

Real hits hard when this sort of thing happens with a teacher you've had, and previously respected. It's when people you know are the ones in the PAPD, booking photos, that it sends an ice cold shiver down your spine, as you realize that a seemingly ordinary human being is capable of such a grotesque act.


17 people like this
Posted by Paly student
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jun 16, 2016 at 11:03 am

It really hits you. When its a former teacher, someone you previously respected, commits such a grotesque act. It sends shivers down your spine that someone so seemingly ordinary, is capable of doing such a horrific thing.

Thoughts go out to the victim and their family, for this whole investigation and spotlight must be damaging for her too in addition to what happened.


44 people like this
Posted by James Thurber
a resident of Mountain View
on Jun 16, 2016 at 11:48 am

James Thurber is a registered user.

Based on information contained in the article it appears VERY likely that Señor Farrell committed the acts he is accused of. However, please don't be too quick to convict. As a male teacher (freshly retired) I am very aware of accusations that may, or may not, be based in fact.

I am in no way excusing inappropriate behavior on the part of the teacher. However, at this instant all information is based on the police report and no plea has been entered. Please keep an open mind - for now.

[Portion removed.]


56 people like this
Posted by LongTimePA_Resident
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 16, 2016 at 11:48 am

LongTimePA_Resident is a registered user.

Let's slow down here, no charges have been filed. I've know Ronnie for many years and I have a very difficult time believing this is anything more than a bad misunderstanding. Please everyone, let the dust settle before the public hanging.


21 people like this
Posted by Concerned Coach
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 16, 2016 at 12:49 pm

Concerned Coach is a registered user.

@ LongTimePA_Resident


Really?


74 people like this
Posted by hr
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Jun 16, 2016 at 1:01 pm

hr is a registered user.

With close to thirty years of teaching experience in this district, I find it strange that any male teacher would meet with a female or male student alone, after normal working hours, under any circumstance without a parent present. Every teacher gets this drilled into their learnings long before they even see their first nickel. Blaming a union and a salary increase to this situation makes about as much sense as most of the discussions on this forum.


2 people like this
Posted by Concerned Coach
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 16, 2016 at 1:34 pm

Concerned Coach is a registered user.

[Post removed.]


23 people like this
Posted by NOT again!
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 16, 2016 at 2:13 pm

NOT again! is a registered user.

What in the world is up with PAUSD that there have been SO many of these cases in the last twenty years???? I have lived in three districts in this country, as well as one each in seven countries. Only in southeastern China did I ever see anything like I have seen in Palo Alto!


27 people like this
Posted by choices
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 16, 2016 at 2:14 pm

choices is a registered user.

Holy Cow, having put two children thru private and private Catholic school, private schools are far from immune to bad choices teachers make, believe me, I know first hand.


16 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jun 16, 2016 at 2:39 pm

mauricio is a registered user.

[Post removed.]


12 people like this
Posted by Juan
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 16, 2016 at 4:37 pm

Juan is a registered user.

[Post removed.]


8 people like this
Posted by Angela R. Lanphear
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 16, 2016 at 5:15 pm

Angela R. Lanphear is a registered user.

[Post removed.]


27 people like this
Posted by Samuel L.
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 16, 2016 at 6:15 pm

Samuel L. is a registered user.

My daughter had Ronnie for science. She liked him. I had exchanges with him both on email and in person, and he seemed likable enough. My daughter was even thinking of being his aide. I guess he told the class that he has past students help him with his classes. Might be interesting to look at the make up of the past students he had helping him.

One thing that I did witness that was odd was some boys were playing soccer on the lacrosse/soccer field after school and Ronnie popped in and started playing with them. One of the boys pushed Ronnie over, pretty hard, and Ronnie didn't even say anything. Then the student took Ronnie's bag and started running away with it. It seemed like an odd interaction between a teacher and students.

Like Kevin Sharp, the English teacher that had the relationship with the past student,and Phil Winston, Ronnie seemed to want to be friends with the students, instead of a role model.

Can't PAUSD establish guidelines for teacher/student communication? No Facebook friends, Twitter follows, etc... and definitely no one on one meetings.

It's sad that students are told that teachers are the "trusted adults" and then stuff like this happens. So, now what do we tell our kids? Do they need to bring a friend with them any time they want to talk to a teacher? We are encouraged to let our kids discuss their schooling with their teachers so that we're not getting involved. Now, I'm not comfortable letting her talk to her teachers unless there are others around.

Paly has a lot of work to do to get the confidence back of the parents and the students.

Maybe the OCR needs to set up an office in the Tower Building.


7 people like this
Posted by SEA_SEELAM REDDY
a resident of College Terrace
on Jun 16, 2016 at 7:19 pm

SEA_SEELAM REDDY is a registered user.

No way.

We can not allow this.

Hope the student is getting a lot of help from family and school.

respectfully


19 people like this
Posted by john_alderman
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 16, 2016 at 7:53 pm

john_alderman is a registered user.

@ Another - Private schools are definitely not immune from this kind of abuse, but at least they can fire the teachers that do it without fighting through the unions who are more interested in self protection and power than the children they are supposed to serve.


14 people like this
Posted by outsider
a resident of another community
on Jun 16, 2016 at 8:46 pm

outsider is a registered user.

Good for the family for speaking up.

I would love to see self defense taught to every Freshman. Also, the site council at the school must be clear about teachers in rooms alone with kids, kids in classes without teachers and students with keys and or access to buildings. They are really asking for trouble. Students should never , ever be alone in a class with an adult and teachers need to be vigilant about this rule for their own sake also.

Also, at after school events and all the new late night online classes, where are the administrators? They are just trusting that all the teachers and kids will behave They also need to be present, visible and take the lead for student safety nets. Still have not seen them in parking lots after football games at concerts or out and about. NO staff room also makes teachers feel isolated and apparently able to do as they please without comment.


27 people like this
Posted by True?
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jun 16, 2016 at 11:07 pm

True? is a registered user.

I have a black sheep brother-in-law who was thrown into jail in Los Angeles by a angry women he rebuffed at a night club. She claimed he did something he didn't. We posted bail and a week later, she dropped the charges because she lied. So just because Farrell was arrested, doesn't mean he is convicted. [Portion removed.]


12 people like this
Posted by SEA_SEELAM REDDY
a resident of College Terrace
on Jun 17, 2016 at 2:44 am

SEA_SEELAM REDDY is a registered user.

[Portion removed.]

Hope this teacher is removed quickly.

A big disappointment.


22 people like this
Posted by Past Paly Parent
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 17, 2016 at 11:47 am

Past Paly Parent is a registered user.

I usually agree about not springing to assumptions of guilt. But people should carefully read the article - the police basically caught him in a sting, acting like the girl conversed with him on social media then agreed to meet with him Wednesday night. They booked him right away on 4 counts - Im sure the conversations were pretty incriminating for such swift action.


11 people like this
Posted by Mr. Rogers
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 17, 2016 at 1:04 pm

Mr. Rogers is a registered user.

If he is guilty of this crime (let's remember that he is presumed to still have rights to due process, which include the presumption of innocence) he should have the book thrown at him. He will have a long path to amend a truly awful crime and betrayal of the trust of the victim, the school community, and his family.

But don't for a minute assume that a private school setting will shield you from this sort of thing. One of our local elite private schools had a well-known-to-insiders case of this sort of criminal behavior from a teacher with high school girls; said teacher was reprimanded but eventually ended up in a leadership position in the school administration. As opposed to having a union protect him, he was protected by higher-ups in the school's administration - this sort of thing goes on a lot more than you might imagine and is hushed up by big money and powerful donors who do not want their school's reputation damaged. Money talks.

The real answer to this dilemma is to teach our students how to stand up for themselves, what is and is not appropriate behavior, and for parents to be aware of what their children are doing on social media. If a male teacher is awful enough to do something like this, the appropriate response from the young lady would be a left hook to the jaw.


13 people like this
Posted by Samuel L.
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 17, 2016 at 1:39 pm

Samuel L. is a registered user.

Paly administration needs to do a better job of looking out for the students. This is the same school that had James Franco teach a class [portion removed.]

If the school really cared about the student's safety, instead of the bragging rights of having a celebrity on campus, they never would have let Franco near the student body.

Add that to Winston, Sharp and now Farrell, and it's obvious there's a problem with the hiring process and code of conduct for teachers/administrators in the district.


11 people like this
Posted by outsider
a resident of another community
on Jun 17, 2016 at 4:03 pm

outsider is a registered user.

Just received links to cartoon pictures and advice about how to talk to kids after they are assaulted. So glad they fixed the problem.


12 people like this
Posted by Concerned Coach
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 18, 2016 at 1:29 pm

Concerned Coach is a registered user.

Maybe NBC's Chris Hansen from To Catch a Predator will end up featuring the PAUHSD in his next trilogy.


11 people like this
Posted by outsider
a resident of another community
on Jun 19, 2016 at 5:45 pm

outsider is a registered user.

Maybe the admin. should take a closer look at their dress code. Girls shorts only cover half their bums and they often just wear bikini type tops alone or under a very loose low cut tank top. Also sponsored at this school is "no pants day" at the end of the year, the girls wear an oxford and their underwear to class. One year a male teacher participated in no pants day as a joke I think but now am not sure.

There is no excuse for misconduct, but why do these girls and their female administrators think this is any part of a safe environment. I think the girls think just boys their age are looking but that is not the case. They really need to consider shorts that have at least a 4 inch inseam and no bikini tops. I am not a prude, but I also hate to see these girls taking the focus away from their intelligence with these really, really skimpy outfits. I am really only talking about no pants day, bikini tops and the shorts that are so short, the front pockets hang out below the hem a few inches.

I in know way think that the girl in this incident was wearing anything like this or would have any blame even if she was. I do think the adults at this school or the adults buying these outfits are not doing any girl any boy or any gender any favor by sending them dressed for academics this way. Walking through the downtown like this might also put a girl at risk. Any school that condones no pants day and allows bikinis in class is going to have more and more sexual abuse arrests and possibly worse. Again, Site council, please look at this, teachers on facebook and alarm systems and better cameras after hours at the school. ( none will fix this problem but may prevent another really sad incident like this)


20 people like this
Posted by True?
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jun 19, 2016 at 10:29 pm

True? is a registered user.

After all that rant about skimpy clothing, outsider states: "I in know way think that the girl in this incident was wearing anything like this or would have any blame even if she was."

Clothing has nothing to do with this. Clothing might have a factor in the case of a total stranger attacking, but in this case, even a student who dresses in a tee shirt and long jeans is at risk.

The way to stop cases like this from occurring is for parents to be more engaged with their children, and for parents to teach their children to avoid emailing teachers about anything other than academics (although teens may do as they please). Too many parents think that once a child is out of diapers, they no longer need to raise and guide them; they have no idea what their kids are up to on a daily basis and they don't care. There are so many students doing illegal activities (drinking drugs, sex) and their parents have no idea whatsoever. Even those who aren't engaging in such are being ignored by their parents, it's clear, as my daughter has told me stories of the negligent parenting. There are many students who have no lunch money or no lunch. I know some parents expect their teens to make their own lunches so the students skip lunch altogether - this is negligent parenting - give them money for lunch! They are still youths until they turn 18 and many parents don't acknowledge this.


7 people like this
Posted by outsider
a resident of another community
on Jun 20, 2016 at 10:33 am

outsider is a registered user.

[Post removed.]


2 people like this
Posted by Concerned Coach
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 20, 2016 at 2:58 pm

Concerned Coach is a registered user.

@outsider: I am sorry but this is your second post that your lead in is the exact same item concerning dress-code-behavior or misbehavior and I am of the opinion that you are trying very hard to flip the spotlight to another area. As a coach (me) or as a teacher or camp counselor - we are all born with god-given "switches" that we know to "flip" whenever a temptation presents itself. Another example are men/women who often use vulgarity or off color words at whim within a very small circle of friends but then are completely in charge of their own "switch" and thus can function in public without using such offensive words.

This part of the article above clearly shows more poor judgement on the teacher.

{Detectives who began investigating the case immediately after the parent's complaint found that Farrell continued corresponding with the victim via social media. He arranged to meet her at Paly on the evening of June 15. Detectives were there to meet him instead and took him into custody without incident, police said in a statement}


4 people like this
Posted by True?
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jun 20, 2016 at 3:22 pm

True? is a registered user.

Concerned Coach: Well said. Stating an opinion with a disclaimer is a good way to post without risk of deletion, but is transparent.

I often think female victims are partially at fault (such as when they blackout due to alcohol) but in this circumstance, Mr. Ferrell should have avoided such behavior, knowing that teens are immature and possibly naive.

My daughter said that her friends (females) have sent Paly teachers Friend Requests on Facebook but the teachers responded that they cannot accept student Friend Requests until the student has graduated from high school.


1 person likes this
Posted by outsider
a resident of another community
on Jun 20, 2016 at 4:40 pm

outsider is a registered user.

coach,

I am looking for easy fixes for better safety realizing of course, even with everything safely in place, bad people will still be able to do bad things. I am so happy there are so many great teachers at this school and wish you all had a staff room so you could encourage good behavior and be able to work together more. I wonder if more red flags would be noticed if all the teachers were not just in their own offices rather than being sectioned off by department. Again, this is just a thought, I am not implying anything else. I do think Site council really needs to step safety for students and teachers.


1 person likes this
Posted by skinny
a resident of another community
on Jun 20, 2016 at 5:16 pm

skinny is a registered user.

@ concerned and Editor There seems to be 2 versions of the Verde profile of RF. The link provided by PAD is an 10/15/15 edited version of the original, showing only 1 photo of a mature RF, as a teacher. Whereas the original article which was published in Verde magazine 02/14/14, volume 15, issue 3, page 61 included 3 photos of RF, 2 of which were RF as a much younger self, which is in keeping with the article's title: "Ronnie Farrell: a glimpse into one science teacher's teen years." The 2 youthful RF photos with his pink motorcycle and his [portion removed] embrace of a male associate along with RF's response to Verde Magazine's question re: "advice for his teen self" give a different view of RF's interests than the link to the edited version of the article and the PAD reporter's cut and paste quotes about "rubber." I have no opinion about RF's guilt or innocence re: the current criminal charges. I'm suggesting that if a link to the Verde article is given, it should link to the unedited original version or if it's a link to the edited version, PAD should note it to be an incomplete version of the Verde article. The original Verde article can be viewed via Verde magazine archives. The unedited article content is confirmed in a blog by the student journalist who is named as author in PAD's link.

Web Link

Web Link



Like this comment
Posted by Ms.A
a resident of St. Claire Gardens
on Jun 21, 2016 at 9:14 pm

Ms.A is a registered user.

WHY was this man allowed to post bail hours after his arrest! Meanwhile all the paly kids and parents live in unrest! [Portion removed.]


Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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