Upland schoolteacher pleads not guilty to molesting six children

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ON20-MEGAW-WLweb.jpgRANCHO CUCAMONGA - An Upland schoolteacher accused of molesting six of his students pleaded not guilty to criminal charges Friday in West Valley Superior Court.

James Andrew Megaw, 42, who resigned this week from his position at Valencia Elementary School, was charged Thursday with six counts of committing a lewd act on a child under 14 years old.

Prosecutors say Megaw, of Rancho Cucamonga, inappropriately touched three girls and three boys ranging in age from 7 to 9 years old.

Five of the alleged crimes occurred between Aug. 20 and Sept. 20, and one happened between September 2006 and May 2007, said Deputy District Attorney Jason Anderson.

Leonard Levine, Megaw's attorney, said after the hearing that Megaw is in a "state of shock" over the accusations of inappropriate sexual touching.

Prosecutors accuse Megaw of touching the students on the outside of their clothing, Levine said.

"This is a good man who has been falsely accused, and hopefully the truth will come out sooner rather than later," Levine said.

Levine arranged for Megaw to appear out of custody Friday for an arraignment hearing.

At the conclusion of the hearing, a bail bondsman who appeared with Megaw posted $600,000 bail. As a result, Megaw was not handcuffed at the end of Friday's hearing.

But he was ordered by Judge Douglas Elwell to go to West Valley Detention Center to be booked and released. Levine said Megaw would be booked Friday afternoon.

Levine said he expects a preliminary hearing, with possible testimony from the alleged victims, will take place in February.

Megaw, known professionally as Andy Megaw, is the former president of the Upland Teachers Association and held multiple leadership positions with the California Teachers Association.

At Valencia, Megaw taught a class of 20 second- and third-graders, said Gary Rutherford, superintendent of the Upland Unified School District.

Rutherford said Megaw resigned from his position on Tuesday from Valencia Elementary. He had been on leave since October, when the molestation accusations first surfaced, school officials said.

He was hired by the district in 1995, and worked until 1999 as a teacher at Baldy View Elementary School, Rutherford said. From 1999 until he was placed on leave he taught at Valencia, Rutherford said.

Before Megaw was hired, he was subject to a background check that included a fingerprint check through the Department of Justice, Rutherford said.

"We're fully compliant with all state laws regarding screening for employment," Rutherford said.

Rutherford said the district would notify Valencia parents of the charges filed against Megaw through a written notice to be sent Friday.

In the hallway outside the courtroom where Friday's hearing took place, an attorney who said he represented the family of an 8-year-old girl who was victimized by Megaw said he was planning a civil lawsuit against the Upland Unified School District and Megaw.

Ricardo Antonio Perez said the district could be liable for the five alleged acts of molestation since Aug. 20 if administrators were aware of the initial molestation allegation from the previous school year.

Megaw's arrest is the second instance this month of an Upland teacher being accused of molesting his students.

Garrett Ammon, 30, a teacher at the Upland YMCA was, arrested Dec. 12 for allegedly touching a 4-year-old boy's genitals. He has pleaded not guilty to the charges.

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