News


Palo Alto teacher charged with nine sex crimes

Ronnie Farrell allegedly involved in two incidents with student victim

Palo Alto High School science teacher Ronnie Farrell will face charges for nine sex crimes stemming from two separate incidents involving a 15-year-old student, a Santa Clara County prosecutor said on Wednesday.

Ronnie Farrell, 46, will be charged with six counts of lewd and lascivious acts on a minor and three counts of sexual battery for the incidents, which occurred in early June on school grounds, prosecutor Steven Dal Porto said.

Palo Alto police arrested Farrell on June 15 for allegedly inappropriately touching the student in his classroom.

The incident happened on June 7 after Farrell asked the victim to meet him at Paly. The victim regularly helped her teachers with chores in the classroom, and she agreed to meet him, police said.

Farrell allegedly led her to a classroom and grabbed her around the waist, lifting her up onto a counter. He allegedly put his hands under her blouse and touched her breasts. Farrell also allegedly took her hand and held it on top of his pants over his groin. The victim moved his hand away, Dal Porto said. Farrell eventually told her to leave the classroom, police said.

The victim told her parents about the incident, and they called police. Farrell continued corresponding with the victim via social media, and arranged to meet her at the school on June 15. When Farrell arrived, police arrested him. He posted $250,000 bail the same day, Dal Porto said.

According to police, Farrell had been communicating with the victim using social media.

Dal Porto said Farrell had been particularly friendly to the victim and often offered to help her. He was a popular biology and chemistry teacher at the school, and the victim did not initially suspect anything unusual in their relationship or his behavior, he added.

The June 7 incident was not the first that Farrell allegedly had with the victim. On June 3, the student had returned to the school campus to pick up a project that she was working on.

"He grabbed her arms and pulled her and hugged her and held her for a lengthy period of time," Dal Porto said the victim had reported.

Farrell will be arraigned in Santa Clara County Superior Court on Aug. 15. If he is convicted of all charges, he could face up to 10 years in state prison, Dal Porto said. No other victims have been identified so far, but police are continuing to investigate, Dal Porto said.

Farrell has taught science at Paly since 2012. He had transitioned from a private sector job as a senior network administrator with Rockefeller Group Telecommunications Services in New York prior to taking up teaching, said Jorge Quintana, the school district's communications coordinator.

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

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

The district's student-services department and Paly Principal Kim Diorio have been in touch with the student's family, and Diorio sent a message about Farrell's arrest to students and parents.

"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."

Diorio 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.

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Correction: In the original version of this article, it was incorrectly stated that the student arranged to meet Farrell on June 15. According to police, Farrell allegedly arranged for the girl to come to his classroom that night, which is when he was met by police and arrested.

Comments

1 person likes this
Posted by parent
a resident of Gunn High School
on Jun 22, 2016 at 12:42 pm

[Post removed.]


12 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 22, 2016 at 12:45 pm

What bothers me most about this, and it is not saying anything about this particular incident, is that all the scandals in the last however long since the Jordan PE teacher, is that these teachers have always been popular teachers, who have done a great job teaching their subject to the majority of students, and have appeared to be the type of teachers we want in our schools.

Back in my day of being young and impressionable, we always thought of perverted adults as sleezy individuals that we had a gut feeling not to trust. The fact that popular teachers who are good at their jobs are able to hide this side of their psyche makes it much harder to look out for. Our young people must be made more aware that no matter how nice a teacher may appear to be, there are certain things that they must not do. Some of the obvious are being alone with them - in or out of school hours, friending them on social media, and chatting about non-school related issues. However, should we be concerned if a teacher shows up at a Club sporting event, a non school related drama or musical performance, or something similar to support their students? At what stage do we expect to get suspicious or be over-protective?

An entertainer in the UK has just had a two year investigation of alleged sexual molestation charges dropped due to lack of evidence. However, two years of having his name clouded by this investigation cannot be taken away and this event will not be forgotten by the public. Until someone is proven guilty, they are presumed innocent, but can that be the same with these types of crimes?

As is said in another conversation, if we see something, say something. But if we get it wrong, what happens then?


16 people like this
Posted by Carol Bael
a resident of Community Center
on Jun 22, 2016 at 8:08 pm

Carol Bael is a registered user.

[Post removed.]


4 people like this
Posted by gunnstudent
a resident of Palo Verde School
on Jun 22, 2016 at 9:21 pm

gunnstudent is a registered user.

[Post removed due to deletion of referenced comment.]


3 people like this
Posted by Samuel L.
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 22, 2016 at 9:30 pm

Samuel L. is a registered user.

[Post removed due to deletion of referenced comment.]


3 people like this
Posted by gunnstudent
a resident of Palo Verde School
on Jun 22, 2016 at 10:49 pm

gunnstudent is a registered user.

[Post removed.]


4 people like this
Posted by Carol Bael
a resident of Community Center
on Jun 22, 2016 at 11:02 pm

Carol Bael is a registered user.

[Post removed.]


2 people like this
Posted by Juan
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 23, 2016 at 9:06 am

Juan is a registered user.

[Post removed.]


19 people like this
Posted by You are not alone.
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 23, 2016 at 11:35 am

You are not alone. is a registered user.

This happened to me 39 years ago when I was a freshman in college. A respected Philosophy teacher called me (and all of his frosh students) into his office individually to discuss progress on a term paper. He made advances that made me very uncomfortable. I left immediately. Later that week I learned from another student in the class that he'd done the same to her--another pretty, blonde, blue-eyed freshman girl.

We talked about what to do, but we were both intimidated kids--and ultimately, we'd each left before anything really bad happened. I never told anyone except that girl and my roomate. Looking back as an adult, I realize I should have reported the incident. I'm sure he tried again and again until some other girl was less lucky or less self confident about saying no. It was a terrible breach of trust and badly shook me up. I stopped attending his class because it was too late in the semester to drop it, and I received a poor grade.

What I learned: NEVER go into an office or classroom (or any isolated place) with a man alone--even if he he is a trusted teacher. If you go in, make sure others are around and the door remains open so that people can walk by and see in.

To the student: This is not your fault. Just like me you were young and naive, and he took advantage of your trust. Thankfully, you had the inner strength to assert yourself and leave, and you found the strength to report it. At your age, that took a lot of maturity. I hope you find support. You did the right thing.


21 people like this
Posted by Concerned Coach
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 23, 2016 at 4:30 pm

Concerned Coach is a registered user.

Could the Board Moderator - someday when s/he has the time inform those who comment on these type boards as to WHY there are always so many posts that are removed.

It would be appreciated.


12 people like this
Posted by Due justice
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 23, 2016 at 5:40 pm

Due justice is a registered user.

[Portion removed.] I've known Mr Farrell for many years. When the facts of this come out,I will be shocked if there was any physical contact at all.

I am in no way trying to disparage the young girl here. If she was indeed assaulted, it is a horrible ordeal she may deal with for a long time to come.

[Portion removed.]


10 people like this
Posted by PAHS Alum
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jun 23, 2016 at 10:22 pm

PAHS Alum is a registered user.

Mr. Shreve was a teacher at Paly since the 1960s and he took boys up to the Tower and molested them. He was still there in the mid 80s until he finally got arrested. He has completed his prison sentence (I don't know how long it was) but his acts were easily more reprehensible than this case: Web Link

Parents need to tell their children to be aware of the red flags. I never had Mr. Shreve but remember teachers who were capable - one asked me to lunch, then tried to kiss me; I was naive and thought nothing was wrong with going to to lunch - he was always joking with the girls and I didn't have any friends - he seemed to like the quieter girls. I wasn't traumatized but knew to stay away thereafter. Another was eventually convicted of molestation - he flirted/joked with girls (but we had no idea it was a red flag). Teens are naive and they should know that a teacher should not be a friend and they should not see them outside of the school campus. Those who want to be friends are capable of crossing the line. Sure, a teacher can small talk about things other than academics, but shouldn't talk extensively about non-academics as if they are a friend. Red flags: Be wary of teachers who touch, even if it's an arm or a pat on the back, a teacher should not be messaging them like a a friend would, flirting/joking inappropriately. Mostly, I recall that these two teachers just seemed a bit off to me, but it was in my subconscious, as teens are not yet skeptical. A pat on the back once might not mean anything, but mixed with other weirdisms, beware.

Let's be clear that these cases are rare. But teens are naive and they should know some warning signs. I am saddened that this happened to Mr. Ferrell, as he was a wonderful, helpful teacher and now he has lost his career and students have lost his good teaching. Very unfortunate all around.


12 people like this
Posted by outsider
a resident of another community
on Jun 24, 2016 at 8:23 am

outsider is a registered user.

People are often surprised or shocked with this sort of thing because they have profiled what "evil" people look like. Unfortunately, there is not a specific look for this type of crime. There were red flags with this teacher and Mr. Sharp that should have been noticed. Hearing from the school newspaper that this teacher did not go through all the same crieteria for hiring that most do is just another reason parents in this district should be frightened and should be talking to their site council and demanding at least best practices dictated by the ed code for teachers and students. What is missing is the administration.

Now at PALY with new night classes and wishy washy attendance policies for tutorials, there is no clear safety plan for children in those classrooms or children going to and from classrooms in the evening. Also, students having access to separate rooms in large buildings without supervision is not ok and not safe. Dress code does not have to be to different, but "no pants day" at the end of the year was a bad idea and does sexualize the PALY students in a creepy way in front of their teachers. I would say the very lax dress code and no pants day at this school blurs lines.

This administration seems to run with a military chain of command, isolated type or responsibility. At a school, each teacher and admin and each student needs to be looking our for each other instead of the time wasting chain of command leadership. This admin. knows there is something called the "hotseat" which is mild hazing in the journalism club, but it still is going on because they all know the admin. is in their office probably arguing about whose problem it is instead of just walking 30 feet and telling them to stop and then monitoring this. Same with drinking and drugs at this school-.they are rampant because the kids know the admin will look the other way or just not notice.

The climate at this school is like the seventies except they have the word resilience to use as if damage to kids is a good thing. I think they should be humiliated for letting not having safety of kids in place and not just saddened. But this is the school that welcomed James Franco in even though he had some problem with soliciting a minor. Maybe this teacher thought this was normal.


6 people like this
Posted by outsider
a resident of another community
on Jun 24, 2016 at 12:55 pm

outsider is a registered user.

To resident

This is the type of teacher that seems to get hired instead of the "uncool" teachers. Who is doing the hiring and why is this person in HR so charmed by these arrogant types of candidates? Are they all buddies in the little bubble they have created that just keeps popping?


8 people like this
Posted by Carol Bael
a resident of Community Center
on Jun 26, 2016 at 10:02 am

Carol Bael is a registered user.

A comment to "Outsider:"

[Portion removed] [N]o one would ever call Ronnie Farrell "arrogant." He was by FAR the best teacher our son had at PALY and when students rate their teachers online, he has the highest ratings BY the students (who are often very judgmental, as you would guess).

[Portion removed.]


2 people like this
Posted by PAHS Alum
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jun 26, 2016 at 11:09 pm

PAHS Alum is a registered user.

[Post removed.]


4 people like this
Posted by outsider
a resident of another community
on Jun 27, 2016 at 8:31 am

outsider is a registered user.

carol--He was not the best teacher at PALY . I can not believe you would say this. I think Mr. Sharp had good ratings on rate my teacher too, so....

Your argument supports my comment that no one can profile sex offenders and the Site council and administration need to follow ed code, best practices and not allow any exceptions because no one really knows who the sex offenders are Just because he may be good a delivering curriculum, does not give him license to break rules for "insiders" Why not follow safety rules for the teachers' sake and the students. If you google Paly teacher, sex.... there is a pretty long list of offenses- I am not out of line in saying that the school should at the very least follow ed code and the SIte council should make sure it is enforced because all the kids deserve this.

Carol, if he did what he is accused of, wether your kid liked him or not, makes him the worst teacher in Palo Alto and a predator for girls. I am sure this girl's family would also not really consider him the "best" teacher. making assumptions about kids academics is really off base [portion removed.] This arrogant thinking that Palo Alto has higher academics than other schools is just elitism and silly. [Portion removed.] I hope the community can cling on to some better safety measures for teachers and for students.

Farrel was arrogant to think that he could go into a public school building, break rules and assault a 15 year old girl if the news story and police reports are true. If he did not, then maybe you can say he was not arrogant. I guess the jury will decide. Would you let your daughter help him put up bulletin boards after school and let her alone with him? I wouldn't.


5 people like this
Posted by Current Paly Parent
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 27, 2016 at 9:15 am

Current Paly Parent is a registered user.

Outsider,
[Portion removed.] Site Council and Paly should follow ed codes. You imply that lax procedures are in place intentionally. We all(including administrators and parents) want our kids to be safe. [Portion removed.] It seems that this incident which is tragic for everyone(especially the victim) has given you a platform to bring up all issues you have with the school(tutorial, journalism, dress code). Let's get working towards a positive solution verses divisiveness.


4 people like this
Posted by outsider
a resident of another community
on Jun 27, 2016 at 9:40 am

outsider is a registered user.

I only see positive results in revisiting ed code/dress codes and attendance and supervision for tutorial, night classes. I am sure the site council with the admin. can make the best judgements based on past events and how well they know their families and students. Obviously there were some failures and lax rules. That does not mean they all are or anyone had bad intentions. Now that they have had this incident-it would be good to try to close "open doors" I do not think you should be making assumptions based on a silly screen name. I think rules need to be clearly set by the admin. again as a precaution for the sake of teachers and students. I am not sure what is negative about wanting PALY to just follow ed code and best practices or to revisit them at site council to make sure it fits with their population with safety in mind. Unfortunately, even if every safety measure is in place, there will still probably be unfortunate incidents. I am just saying that every precaution needs to be taken to try to avoid any future problems. I guess a platform is to follow ed code as a standard knowing it may not even help at all but might so why not. Closed campuses and kids with uniforms have the same problems. I am sure the admin is working hard now and reviewing their own standards with safety in mind.


5 people like this
Posted by Concerned Coach
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 27, 2016 at 10:38 am

Concerned Coach is a registered user.

Dear Outsiders: This is about ZERO concerning the way girls and boys dress. [Portion removed.] NO mode of dress would desensitize a teacher, sworn to protect his/her students, into entering a lurid area of their respective minds - to pursue a temptation. [Portion removed.]


7 people like this
Posted by PAHS Alum
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jun 27, 2016 at 1:29 pm

PAHS Alum is a registered user.

@Concerned Coach, Carol, Current Paly Parent: When someone so strongly objects about sexual molestation, it's usually because it hits close to home with them, such as a similar prior experience. It's only natural for that to occur. Irrational statements are common.

Sharp's ratings were not as good. Farrell was an excellent teacher by far; very few teachers were as good.

Having a dress code will change nothing. Rules will change nothing; rules can be broken.

The students need to be educated on interactions with teachers. The students must protect themselves.


2 people like this
Posted by outsider
a resident of another community
on Jun 27, 2016 at 8:44 pm

outsider is a registered user.

coach,

I think you are correct in every way about most of the teachers being awesome, but there are exceptions. I would also worry about girls walking to and from school at the night classes wearing the new very, very short shorts and bikini tops. Again, it would not be their fault at all if anything happened and I know schools with uniforms may have more problems than those with none, but again, the site council knows its families and the school and they should really consider all precautions just in case it may help even one kid or one teacher


2 people like this
Posted by Concerned Coach
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 28, 2016 at 10:29 am

Concerned Coach is a registered user.

@PAHS Alum - I agree with you - it was "outsider" who was pushing the dress code item.


4 people like this
Posted by outsider
a resident of another community
on Jun 28, 2016 at 12:15 pm

outsider is a registered user.

Yes. Outsider is totally against "no pants day" I think people who support this look pretty.. pretty creepy in the light of past events.


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

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