Protests last month at East LA Performing Arts Magnet. (Instagram shot used with permission).

The principal at East LA Performing Arts (ELAPA) Magnet at Esteban Torres High School has been placed on leave pending an investigation by the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), following multiple student protests calling for his removal. 

On Monday, parents, students and staff received a message from LAUSD Regional Superintendent José P. Huerta, stating that principal John Edwards Estoesta “would be away from campus” for an undisclosed amount of time and that interim administrator Mussetta Malone “will act as the interim principal”  during this absence. 

In an email statement on Monday, a district spokesperson said that schools superintendent Alberto M. Carvalho had visited the campus to talk with students, teachers and administrators about the ongoing issues with Estoesta.

“Subsequently, an investigation is in progress, and we want to assure our students and families that all administrative matters are thoroughly reviewed and follow District policies and procedures, which ensure due process and respect privacy rights of all involved,” the statement continued. “Los Angeles Unified leaders look forward to continuing the dialogue with our Esteban Torres High School students.”

Protests at ELAPA began in early March, following the dismissal of teacher James Lotter. The Eastsider reported that Lotter was called to Estoesta’s office during school hours and was told to gather his belongings upon returning to class. 

At the time, ELAPA students said their grievances went beyond Lotter’s removal.

“We are not just protesting for our teacher,” wrote user @jadeleyva05, a senior, in an Instagram story. “We are protesting for a change in our school environment that has suffered from racism, homophobia, transphobia, sexism and other issues as such that all have gone ignored by LAUSD administration”.

Tensions between the principal, the staff and student body escalated last month, during which students met with administrators and district representatives but did not reach a resolution. On April 26, @jadeleyva05 posted  that “all 20 teachers at my school have refused to sign their contracts and return to teach next year if he returns,” and said that student protests would walk out on the last Thursday and Friday of April.
Those protests had the participation of Centro CSO, an organization with a long history of organizing on the Eastside that created an online petition calling for Estoeta’s removal. The organization said it drafted the petition with the assistance of ELAPA parents, students and some concerned teachers.

“Students of color, females and transgender students have been marginalized and victimized by his policies,” the petition states. “Teachers have been harassed and removed from the school for disagreeing with educational changes unilaterally being implemented by the principal.”

The petition also alleges that Estoesta has pressured parents of special needs students to relocate schools, brushed off transphobic and racially insensitive comments from students and that he harbors an over punitive environment at the school. 

It also references a situation in which he allegedly took down the mirrors in girl bathrooms and told students that when “boys see girls checking themselves out” they will likely “rape or assault” the girls.

“He hasn’t even been the Principal for a whole school year and he’s created such a hostile environment for all at this School,” said an ELAPA student that goes by Kori during the April 27 walkout. “He has moved like a snake trying to stop these protests. He claims he is trying to get better and be more socially aware, but the only way to move forward is for him to be removed immediately.”

Boyle Heights Beat youth reporter James Chambers contributed to this story.

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Alex Medina

Alex Medina is a graduate of Francisco Bravo Medical Magnet High School and 2018 alumnus of the Boyle Heights Beat. He is a recent graduate of Hamilton College in Central New York where he majored in Hispanic...

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  1. He violated my sons Hyppa rights at his old school. My son tested positive for Covid, which was a false positive, called a bunch of parents, and told them who it was exactly who tested positive. I brought it up to the principal at the time, and he was trying to cover for him.

  2. He did not last long at a previous high school either. He is very sexist and attempts to change the culture of the schools he has been at with not regard for input of stakeholdrs. I have been on the recieving end of his sexism many times.

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