Two people allowed to enter Wayside Elementary School as volunteer readers earlier this month have criminal records, according to the Kern County Superior Court.

Ann Ardell has seven entries in the online court system, while Jeff Jones has 13. While each had several arrests involving crimes such as theft, trespassing and obstructing an officer, many of these offenses were dismissed and neither person saw much jail time, according to court records.

Ardell and Jones brought two dogs that appear to be akita or chow mixes to the school on May 9 during a trip to read with second-grade students. After the reading, students were given permission to pet the dogs. One of the students, 8-year-old Leilani Rivera, was seriously injured after being bitten in the face by one of the dogs.

“We’re not talking about traffic tickets here. These are misdemeanors,” said Chain Cohn Stiles attorney Matt Clark. “If you’re a parent, wouldn’t you want to know that people like these are coming into the classroom?”

Clark is representing Rivera in a claim against the Bakersfield City School District and the Kern County Superintendent of Schools regarding the attack.

“Not in a million years could I have imagined that the Superintendent of Schools office or BCSD could have failed in so many ways to ensure the kids in that classroom were protected,” he said.

According to court records, charges against Ardell in all but one of the listed cases were dismissed. These included drug-related offenses, using a mobile home outside of an approved area and working as a contractor without a state license.

Ardell did plead no contest, however, to two counts of petty theft in 1994. She was sentenced to three years’ probation, court records show. She has not served any jail time, according to current records. Records before 1994 were not immediately available.

According to the KCSOS, Ardell was cleared to serve as a volunteer reader as part of its Community Reading Project. Spokesman Rob Meszaros said anyone who wants to volunteer has to be fingerprinted and clear a background check.

They also must be over 18 years old and take a two-hour training session before being partnered with a participating school.

Jones has a more extensive criminal history. He has been convicted in several crimes, including trespassing, obstructing an officer, operating an unregistered vehicle and working as a state contractor without a license, according to court records.

Jones has been sentenced to several years’ worth of probation and a total of 33 days in jail. Most of that — 30 days — was for the obstruction charge, court records show. He was sentenced to a total of three days for trespassing.

How was Jones able to qualify to serve as a volunteer reader? It turns out he wasn’t.

“Only one of the people with the dogs (Ardell) was an approved reader,” Meszaros said.

KCSOS has no record that Jones applied to be a volunteer, Meszaros said. However, while the state's Education Code relating to background checks doesn’t specifically include volunteers, it does suggest that Jones could have been eligible if he had applied.

According to the code, a person can be employed as long as they haven’t been convicted of a serious felony, drug-related or sex-related offenses. While Jones was arrested on suspicion of drug possession, he was never convicted of the charge, records show.

"Our office applies the same standards to volunteers as would be the case for normal classified employees," Meszaros said.

Clark still took issue with the fact both were let in the classroom, for one because they were bringing in two large dogs and the fact they have criminal backgrounds.

“It seems like there were multiple red flags that were raised here,” Clark said. “In my experience litigating cases for over 20 years, people typically get injured when there’s multiple failures in judgment. It’s not just one thing. For Leilani Rivera, that’s exactly what happened.”

Clark faulted BCSD and KCSOS for failing to prevent Ardell and Jones from entering the school with their dogs. 

“All these failures led to this girl’s injuries,” he said. “Had someone responsible stepped up and questioned whether the district should be allowing this, that girl wouldn’t have been hurt.”

The Bakersfield City School District has not directly addressed this month’s attack outside of a statement they released last week. However, according to district policy, visitors must provide some form of identification to get in.

Public Information Officer Irma Cervantes said the district does not have an electronic check-in system like that used by the Kern High School District. In 2018, KHSD installed the Raptor system, which conducts a background check on visitors when they come in.

The device essentially works as a card reader in which a visitor inserts a government-issued photo ID, which is then read and cross-referenced with various databases. If cleared, a visitor will receive a printed guest nametag.

Cervantes said the district has been discussing implementing such a system.

“At this point, we don’t have a definitive decision on which direction we will go, but we do know it is something we will be looking to implement,” she said. 

Joseph Luiz can be reached at 395-7368 or by email at jluiz@bakersfield.com. You can also follow him on Twitter @JLuiz_TBC. 

(11) comments

JKA

I understand that the 2 people that entered the school as readers may have checkered pasts. It certainly appears that there is some explaining to be done as to how this happened. However, this girl was bit by dogs brought in, not the readers. And there is very little mention of the bite or how it came to pass. What protocols are in place for such things to occur? As someone who does take animals into schools and other environments for educational purposes, I am appalled that this happened. It is important to know that there are requirements in place where animals are concerned, for the safety and welfare of those present, including the dogs.

RICHARDFITZWELL

FYI: The Raptor system only checks the sex offender database, and nothing else. It does not provide information such as outstanding warrants or criminal history. It was designed and Implemented to keep sex offenders off school campuses, and to be an electronic check in and check out system.

Nevermind

Actually, all you have to do is look at Superior Court records online, it's not that hard. Takes you 3 minutes. But besides that, bringing unknown animals to class is moronic. Aren't us taxpayers paying enough for lawsuits as it is?

TomStack2025

Sounds like these two geniuses have the pedigree to run for political office!

LocalBarber

People are using this little girl as a pawn for profit. Obviously these people used poor judgment that day. You guys sound like the mayor and friends of whoville. Imagine how many kids have parents with a "checkered past" not being able to attend their kids play, or award ceremony, or pick them up from school because of a dui or domestic.

She Dee

LocalBarber- How is anyone using the victim for profit or as a pawn? If she is a pawn for anything, I'd think it was to RAISE AWARENESS that the most vulnerable of our society (minors) are not being protected to the fullest potential. The system has holes in it & they need to be plugged ASAP before children start to die in their classrooms. I don't see the connection between what you call a "checkered past" & vetted personnel entering the classroom for educational purposes. Volunteers are not above the law & they are not there to play the role of the parents or caregivers of the children in the classrooms of PUBLIC SCHOOLS! This is not about the parents. It's about the strangers that are invited guests under the guise of VOLUNTEERS! Get it?

Nevermind

Yes because little girls who go to school and get chomped on the face are simply money grabbers. You might as well say they throw their kids into oncoming traffic in order to get cash from GEICO. And yeah, if you have a checkered past stay out of schools. It's bad enough when teachers have a checkered past

Grandma Tam

Ditto comments by Torjan55 &lrlopez74. Facebook searched Ann Ardell and saw how enormous and ridiculously scary those dogs are. They look like miniture lions.
Just because they are dressed in drag and as clowns doesn't make those teeth any smaller! Chows are notorously dangerous dogs. What kind of idiots in the office and classroom let those humongous, vicious dogs get near innocent children and that poor little girl? Stop blaming a lack of a computer program; this is pure and simple neglect. Glad the family got an attorney. Hopefully, the district learns a lesson and nothing like this happens again!!! Keep our children safe!!!!

Trojan55

Chows are notoriously aggressive dogs. No dogs should have been allowed near the kids or on school grounds.

lrlopez74

What do these people's criminal history have to do with the fact that they brought dangerous dogs to campus? Do dogs owned by people without criminal histories not attack people? Sounds like the problem lies with the DISTRICT and not with these volunteers. Why are they letting UNAPPROVED VOLUNTEERS show up with dogs?

She Dee

Maybe it's because most people with extensive criminal histories lack a moral compass & are clueless as to how people who don't always try to fly below the radar choose to live their lives. California needs a better VETTING PROGRAM for anyone coming into contact with ALL children under the age of 18. Fingerprinting & photos & ID cards are a good start AFTER they pass a full background check.

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