Negligence Alleged Against Spark Charter School, County in Sexual Assault of Student

Claims submitted Thursday against a Sunnyvale charter school and the Santa Clara County Office of Education allege negligence in the sexual assault of an 8-year-old student by a part-time employee last month.

Attorney Robert Allard, who represents the 8-year-old girl through her mother, sent the claims to Spark Charter School and the county office.

Jonathan Chow, 18, was a part-time lunch monitor and extended care teacher's assistant at the school at the time of the assault, department of public safety officials said.

The claims allege that on Sept. 15 Chow led the girl to a secluded area on the campus, where he assaulted and molested her during school hours while unsupervised, Allard said.

Chow was arrested that same day and booked into Santa Clara County Main Jail without bail. He is scheduled for a plea hearing on Oct. 16.

"There was a lack of attention to detail with regard to these aides," Allard said.

The girl's parents have withdrawn their daughter from Spark Charter and enrolled her at a different school, according to Allard.

Each claim seeks damages of more than $10,000 each for physical, mental, and emotional pain along with treatment needed for what the girl and mother have suffered.

Days after Chow was arrested, the county office found the school did not have records of staff background checks and fingerprint clearances and ordered school officials to complete them.

The school closed for about a week to meet state requirements to avoid having their charter revoked.

The school opened in August to about 160 students in kindergarten through sixth grade at 739 Morse Ave., on the same campus as Columba middle School.

On Tuesday, William Overton took over as Spark Charter's new principal and superintendent, replacing Danni Tsai, who resigned to spend time with her family and look into other opportunities, according to school officials.

Tsai was a member of the county office of education's task force reviewing the Walden West outdoor science program and make recommendations, Allard said.

The task force, formed after the arrest of a former science camp counselor, is facing nine felony charges including lewd and lascivious acts with a child under 14 years old and possessing more than 600 images of child pornography.

Chow has been arraigned on five felony charges including sexual penetration of a child under the age of 10, possessing more than 600 images of child pornography and inducing a minor's involvement in child pornography, prosecutors said.

"We were saddened and disappointed to learn of alleged child sexual abuse at the Spark Charter School last month and our thoughts and sympathy go out to the family," the county office said in a statement.

"Spark Charter School is independently operated and governed by a nonprofit board of directors, who are empowered under California charter school law to make all operational decisions autonomously. SCCOE's responsibility and authority was narrowly limited to ensuring that the charter agreement met state guidelines," the county office said.

Requests for comment from Spark Charter officials were not immediately returned Thursday.

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