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$11 Million School Sexual Abuse Settlement Reached in Redlands Unified Case

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$11 Million School Sexual Abuse Settlement Reached in Redlands Unified Case

$11 Million School Sexual Abuse Settlement Reached in Redlands Unified Case

Sep 25, 2021

Redlands Unified School District in Southern California has agreed to an $11 million sexual abuse settlement after complaints were filed by seven survivors. The plaintiffs, initially named in four separate lawsuits, accuse a former Clement Middle School teacher, Sean Ramiro Lopez, of various sex crimes. Lopez is currently serving a 74-year prison sentence for sexual abuse.

Redlands Unified has faced similar accusations as well as litigation related to sexual abuse in the past. With the latest $11 million settlement, the school has reportedly paid over $41 million to former students alleging sexual abuse by teachers since 2016.

Lopez taught eighth-grade English at Clement from September 1999 until his arrest on February 21, 2002. The San Bernardino Sun reported that the lawsuits were filed following the 2020 enactment of California AB 218, the new law we’ve highlighted extensively on the DLG Blog which currently allows any survivor of childhood sexual abuse the opportunity to file a civil lawsuit in pursuit of maximum financial compensation. Additionally, AB 218 allows survivors of childhood sexual abuse the opportunity to file a civil lawsuit until their 40th birthday. For a comprehensive guide to California AB 218, please visit our recent blog.

In a Thursday statement, Redlands Unified spokesman, Tom DeLapp, called the sexual abuse endured by the students “reprehensible and troubling.”

“It is our sincere hope that this settlement will help provide the victims of his [Lopez] crimes with support and resources to allow for continued healing… Redlands Unified, under the leadership of this administration, has put in place aggressive policies, practices, and reporting protocols that can prevent this kind of behavior from occurring in the future,” DeLapp added.

Additionally, DeLapp cited the district’s recently implemented ACT Now! program, which he said “provides effective tools for victims and witnesses to come forward when they see something, hear something, or even sense something relating to suspected child abuse and harassment.”

“Everyone in Redlands Unified has been put on notice that sexual misconduct and/or failure to report will not be tolerated and that we will take decisive and immediate action to deal with it,” DeLapp said.

The San Bernardino Sun reported that an investigation by the Southern California News Group revealed that “for nearly two decades, the district covered up allegations of sexual abuse involving students, destroyed evidence, allowed teachers to continue preying on students, and ordered teachers and other staff not to cooperate with police during criminal investigations.”

The Sun cites two troubling cases of student sexual abuse within Redlands Unified:

  • Laura Whitehurst: Former English teacher and soccer coach at Citrus Valley High School who became pregnant by one of her students and bore his child.
  • Kevin Patrick Kirkland: Former Redlands High School math teacher and golf coach who reportedly “preyed upon vulnerable female students” and had sex with them – often at his home or in his car.

According to the Sun’s report, school district administrators were aware of both teachers’ behavior but failed to take any appropriate action. Those two cases led to the following legal action:

  • In August 2016, Redlands Unified paid $6 million to settle a lawsuit filed by Whitehurst’s victim.
  • In August 2018, the district settled three separate lawsuits on behalf of eight victims for $15.7 million.

Six of those plaintiffs from the August 2018 settlement were either victims or alleged victims of Kirkland (one of whom reportedly received $7 million).

Under California AB 218’s treble damages clause, the courts now have the latitude to award triple awards (whether settlements or verdicts) to survivors of childhood sexual abuse who were impacted by a provable cover-up (i.e. an $11 million settlement could ultimately be increased to $33 million in the event that a cover-up is proven). The treble damages clause would not be applicable to the Redlands Unified cases settled in 2016 and 2018, as it only covers claims filed between January 1, 2020, and the bill’s limited three-year lookback window deadline of December 31, 2022.

According to the report from the San Bernardino Sun, Marilyn Kemple, principal at Clement Middle School when Lopez was employed as a teacher, “was warned as early as 1999” about the sexual predator’s behavior – both by students and parents. Nevertheless, the Sun confirms that Kemple failed to ever take proper action, at one point going so far as to call a student who had made allegations against Lopez a “liar” and threatening to expel her.

If you’re a survivor of sexual abuse by a Redlands Unified School District teacher or employee, contact the experienced and trusted attorneys at Dordulian Law Group (DLG) for a free consultation today. Led by Sam Dordulian, a former sex crimes prosecutor and Deputy District Attorney for Los Angeles County, we’re here to listen, to believe you, and to pursue justice by recovering maximum financial compensation on your behalf.

School Sexual Abuse on the Rise

Unfortunately, we’ve covered the topic of school sexual abuse extensively over the past year – with more and more reports revealing a troubling trend of increasing crimes that have a devastating impact on young people.

The following statistics on school sexual abuse further highlight this concerning trend:

  • A recent study issued by the Education Department confirmed that reports of sexual violence in schools rose more than 50% between the 2015-2016 school year and the 2017-2018 school year.
  • In 2015, 3.5 million students in 8th-11th grade reported sexual contact with an adult.

Some of the latest reports of school sexual abuse – both here in California and throughout the nation – have garnered worldwide headlines:

California:

National:

As we’ve noted in past blogs, parents are rightfully alarmed at these troubling statistics – many of whom have contacted our offices with questions regarding what to do after a child has been sexually abused by a teacher or coach. While we recently put together an informative guide related to sexual grooming, it’s also important to highlight AB 218, the law which allows all survivors of childhood sexual abuse a limited opportunity to obtain justice and recover financial compensation.

Why California AB 218 Equals Justice for Childhood Sexual Abuse

California AB 218 officially took effect on January 1, 2020. The new law provides a number of opportunities which can help survivors of childhood sexual abuse more easily obtain the justice they deserve. Perhaps the most important aspect of AB 218 is the three-year “lookback window” clause.

Sam Dordulian, DLG’s founder, uses a “time machine” metaphor when describing AB 218’s lookback window, as it effectively allows survivors of childhood sexual abuse to “go back in time, as far back as we need to” when pursuing a civil lawsuit against a perpetrator (whether an individual or an entity/institution).

Under AB 218’s lookback window, the standard statute of limitations on childhood sexual abuse crimes is tolled (paused) for three years, allowing any survivor to file a claim seeking financial compensation (regardless of how long ago the crime occurred). Before AB 218 took effect, survivors of childhood sexual abuse were left without any legal recourse if the crime against them occurred outside the statute of limitations. But until December 31, 2022, every single survivor of childhood sexual abuse has an opportunity to file a civil claim with DLG in pursuit of a maximum financial damages award.

However, it is extremely important to understand that this lookback window is only available for a limited time. Accordingly, survivors are strongly encouraged to file a claim as soon as possible to ensure deadlines are met and the likelihood of successfully recovering compensation is not affected.

As mentioned earlier, AB 218 also provides a treble damages clause. In the case of a cover-up being proven, the courts now have the latitude to award survivors of childhood sexual abuse triple damages awards. But in order to be eligible for a treble damages clause award, you must file a claim within the three-year lookback window.

California’s Proven and Trusted Sexual Abuse Attorneys

Led by former Deputy District Attorney for Los Angeles County, Sam Dordulian, DLG offers survivors of sexual abuse an unparalleled level of experience as well as the proven results that provide peace of mind knowing your claim is in the best possible hands. As a sex crimes prosecutor, Dordulian helped obtain life sentences against some of our community’s most dangerous sexual predators. With more than 100 jury trial victories, Dordulian offers school sexual abuse survivors the knowledge and skill that’s required to ensure a maximum financial damages award is recovered.

Our Sexual Assault Justice Experts are here to help survivors secure justice. Contact our top-rated attorneys online or by phone for a free consultation today.

Moreover, DLG provides survivors with added resources and advantages beyond the very best legal expertise available. This includes our four-tiered SAJE Team (Sexual Abuse Justice Experts) support network of dedicated professionals.

With DLG, survivors have 24/7 access to our multi-faceted SAJE Team:

  • Litigation Lead: Sam Dordulian, former sex crimes prosecutor and Deputy District Attorney for Los Angeles County with over 100 jury trial victories and 25 years of experience
  • Investigative Lead: Moses Castillo, in-house Chief Investigator and retired LAPD sex crimes detective in the elite Abused Child Unit with over 30 years of experience
  • Mental Health Lead: In-house licensed clinical therapist with over 15 years of experience specifically assisting sexual assault survivors
  • Advocate Leads: Two licensed and nationally accredited victim advocates who have devoted their lives to helping sexual assault survivors

Experience and proven results are why sexual abuse survivors throughout the nation consistently choose DLG to handle their claims, obtain justice, and recover maximum financial compensation on their behalf:

  • More than $100,000,000 recovered in settlements and verdicts
  • A 98% success record
  • More than 100 jury trial victories
  • Former sex crimes prosecutor
  • Former Deputy District Attorney for L.A. County
  • In-house Chief Investigator/retired LAPD detective
  • More than 25 years of sex crimes experience

After helping clients recover more than $100,000,000 in settlements and verdicts (and maintaining a 98% success record in the process), we’re dedicated to fighting as your legal advocates to ensure you obtain the justice you deserve through a maximum financial damages award.

Whether it’s the Catholic Church or the Boy Scouts of America, DLG has experience successfully taking on major institutions in sexual abuse cases under California AB 218.

And since we accept every case on a contingency fee agreement, you never have to worry about upfront costs or out-of-pocket expenses when securing the very best legal representation available. Our No Win/No Fee Guarantee means you don’t pay a penny until we recover maximum financial compensation for your school sexual abuse claim.

Contact us today online or by phone at 818-322-4056 to learn more about how we can help you secure the justice you deserve for your school, teacher, or coach sexual abuse lawsuit.


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