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March 09, 2005

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Palo Alto Online

Publication Date: Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Gunn principal sticks behind decision to hire Hopkins Gunn principal sticks behind decision to hire Hopkins (March 09, 2005)

Says district was aware of previous arrest

by Alexandria Rocha

While one school official said Albert Hopkins' termination from DeAnza College for harassment should have been "a huge red flag" when he applied for a job at Gunn High School, others are sticking by their decision to hire him three years ago as supervisor of the campus' academic center.

Two Palo Alto police officers are currently on trial for unlawfully assaulting Hopkins in July 2003. In court Monday, a defense attorney submitted evidence that accuses Hopkins of sexually harassing three women while he was a financial aid officer at DeAnza College.

That information was subpoenaed from DeAnza's personnel files and do not appear on Hopkins' criminal record, but he was terminated from the school in 1994. Attorney Harry Stern, who is representing Michael Kan, one of the accused officers, could not be reached for comment.

In 2000, Hopkins was accused of running up to a woman he didn't know and hugging and kissing her, according to court records. He was arrested for battery, but later pled to disturbance of the peace. The conviction appears on his record.

Hopkins has been employed as the supervisor of Gunn's Academic Center for the last three years. The center is used for tutoring, and student and parent volunteers are welcome to use the facility as needed.

"He's doing a fabulous job," said Gunn Principal Noreen Likins. "He has been a great role model for a lot of our kids, particularly our kids of color on campus."

Hopkins has also attended numerous trips to the district's Camp Anytown, a three-day camp for students, parents and teachers, in which the goal is to foster tolerance and diversity.

Likins said she doesn't know anything about the recent sexual harassment allegations against Hopkins. She did say, however, that the district was well aware of the one conviction that appeared on his record when he was hired.

"I wouldn't call it harassment, but it was something we did look into before we hired him. After a lot of discussion, we felt that this would not stop him from doing a good job for us and thus far that has definitely been the case," Likins said.

Marilyn Cook, the district's assistant superintendent of Human Resources, could not be reached for comment.

David Johnson, the district's coordinator for human resources, was startled when he heard of Hopkins' conviction, saying it should have been "a huge red flag."

Johnson said all employee candidates have to be fingerprinted before they step anywhere near a campus. The candidates' background information is reviewed by the state Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Johnson said the checks usually come back within one to three days.

"If there's any little thing on the record we check it out very thoroughly, even going down to the police station down on California and getting the printed records," Johnson said.

The attorney representing Hopkins, his brother Joe C. Hopkins, rebukes the allegations against his client. Joe C. Hopkins said in a statement submitted to the court there were not three women who accused his brother of sexual harassment while he worked at DeAnza College. He said there was only one woman and Albert Hopkins had a consensual relationship with her. She retaliated against him when she wasn't eligible for financial aid, Joe C. Hopkins said in the court statement.

Regarding the 2000 conviction, Joe C. Hopkins said his brother had "foolishly misinterpreted" his accuser's smile as a friendly gesture, responding with a hug and quick kiss aimed at her cheek.

Joe C. Hopkins could not be reached for comment.

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