A crossing guard at Marion Mix Elementary School in Elk Grove was arrested on the job by the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department Sexual Assault Bureau the morning of Feb. 24, according to information from the Sheriff’s Department.
Christopher Navarrete, 34, of Sacramento is accused of sexually assaulting a 14-year-old who was not a student at the school, according to Sgt. Tony Turnbull, Sheriff’s Department spokesman.
District officials and law enforcement did not inform media about the arrest until The Sacramento Bee inquired this week, though families arriving at the school witnessed him being taken into custody, and the district notified parents the day it occurred.
Navarrete was arrested on suspicion of sexual battery, lewd acts with a minor and possession of obscene matter depicting a person under 18, Turnbull said. He was charged with three counts of lewd and lewd or lascivious acts on a child age 14 or 15 on Feb. 28. He is in custody and is ineligible for bail.
Marion Mix is the only elementary school with a paid crossing guard because of the heavy volume of traffic near the school on Laguna Park Drive, said Xanthi Pinkerton, school district spokeswoman. The district contracts with a school crossing guard company for the service, she said.
This is the fifth time an Elk Grove Unified employee or volunteer has been investigated for inappropriate behavior related to children during the last 13 months, and the fourth time someone affiliated with the district’s schools has been arrested. Three of the cases have involved Elk Grove Unified students, while two, including Navarette’s, did not.
Elk Grove Unified serves 63,000 students and is the largest district in the region.
“One incident of employee misconduct that is inappropriate is one too many, and the past three that involved our students are very concerning,” Pinkerton said. “Our background clearance and fingerprint screening policy is what we rely on currently along with our school resource officers and access to police services. We are always reviewing our policies to update them and embolden them.”
Elk Grove resident Cassandra Burgess-Alex is upset by the spate of arrests. “I’m shocked and appalled,” she said. “What are they going to do to change their policies around this? It isn’t acceptable at all.”
Pinkerton said that all school employees are fingerprinted and have a Department of Justice background check before they are hired. Volunteers who work without the supervision of certificated staff also undergo these checks, although supervised volunteers may not be fingerprinted, she said.
The California Department of Justice reports any subsequent arrests of district employees to administrators who decide whether to remove the employee from the school or to monitor the person.
Independent contractors are sometimes asked to provide certification that an employee working with students has been fingerprinted and has a background check, Pinkerton said. The need is determined by the employee’s access to children and the amount of time they spend with children.
Pinkerton wasn’t immediately able to say whether Navarrete had been fingerprinted or had a background check.