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Palo Alto PE teacher charged with sexually assaulting student in 2001

Alleged incident involved a Redwood City man and occurred at Greene Middle School over 20 years ago
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A Palo Alto Unified School District physical education teacher has been charged with sexual assault on a female student over 20 years ago, police said Wednesday afternoon.

The teacher, Peter Michael Colombo, 55, of Redwood City, was taken into custody on Wednesday after he self-surrendered to law enforcement, Palo Alto police said in a press release. 

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Peter Michael Colombo, 55, a physical education teacher at Greene Middle School, was arrested for allegedly sexually assaulting a student on campus in 2001. Courtesy Palo Alto Police Department

Palo Alto Unified administrators notified police in late January after receiving an email reporting that Colombo, who currently works at the school, allegedly sexually assaulted an 11-year-old sixth grader in the locker room at the former Jordan Middle School in 2001. The school, which has been renamed Greene Middle School, is located at 750 N. California Ave. The assault allegedly took place during the 2001-2002 school year.

District administrators immediately placed the teacher on administrative leave. An investigation by police and the school district found that the girl, who is now in her 30s, was allegedly assaulted during lunch period. The Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office filed one felony charge of aggravated sexual assault of a child against Colombo on Monday and a Santa Clara County Superior Court judge signed a warrant for his arrest Tuesday, according to police.

Colombo surrendered at the Palo Alto Police Department on Wednesday and was booked into the Santa Clara County Main Jail.

In a statement, Palo Alto Unified School District administrators said the district was notified of Colombo's arrest on Wednesday. Colombo has not been allowed on any school campus since he was placed on administrative leave in January. The district worked collaboratively with police investigators, it said.

"PAUSD fully supports the PAPD request to report any information people may have about the allegations and to report any inappropriate personal experiences, regardless of the amount of time that may have passed. PAUSD treats all allegations seriously. Confidentiality was required to protect the integrity of the initial investigation at the request of PAPD," the district said.

Colombo coached baseball starting at Palo Alto High School in 1998 and was the head coach from 2000 to 2005. After a brief hiatus, he returned to coach at the high school in 2011, according to a 2017 profile in the Palo Alto High School newspaper The Campanile.

He has taught in the Palo Alto Unified School District for 24 years, according to his LinkedIn profile. He also taught at Kennedy Middle School in the Redwood City School District for 11 months in 1997 to 1998 and for more than three years at Junipero Serra High School in San Mateo from 1991 to 1995.

On Thursday, police provided additional information. Colombo was a previous employee of the city of Palo Alto. He worked in the Community Services Department as a part-time coach with the city's middle school athletic program. Colombo was assigned exclusively to Greene Middle School and coached eighth grade students on the boys basketball team between 2015 and 2019, the police said.

Police said they are not aware of any additional victims. Detectives encourage anyone who may have been victimized to contact the Palo Alto Police Department. Anyone with information about the incident or Colombo is asked to call the department's 24-hour dispatch center at 650-329-2413. Anonymous tips can be emailed to paloalto@tipnow.org or sent by text message or voicemail to 650-383-8984.