Former Ojai Teacher Arrested for Sexual Abuse of Student

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Ojai Teacher Arrested for Sexual Abuse, ‘Unlawful Dating Relationship’ With Student

Ojai Teacher Arrested for Sexual Abuse, ‘Unlawful Dating Relationship’ With Student

Aug 1, 2023

A former teacher at Oak Grove School in Ojai, California, was arrested Monday for sexually abusing a child. Paul Herder, 65, who previously taught at schools in Ojai and Los Angeles, is alleged to have engaged in a sexual relationship with an underage student during his tenure with Oak Grove.

CBS News reported that deputies with the Ventura County Sheriff’s Department were alerted in February 2023 to a sexual assault cold case involving crimes that are believed to have occurred from August of 2013 through June of 2017.

While a teacher at Ojai’s Oak Grove School, detectives say Herder engaged in the underage sexual relationship which included various criminal activity:

  • Coercing the student to engage in numerous sexual acts
  • Sending harmful material to the student
  • Possessing child pornography

Police traced and located Herder in Pahoa, Hawaii, where he was extradited to Ventura County and arrested, according to KTLA. Herder has been charged with 23 counts. Some of the charges listed in court documents include:

  • Lewd acts on a child
  • Unlawful sexual intercourse
  • Luring and using a minor for sex acts
  • Oral copulation of a person under 18
  • Digital penetration of victim under 18 years old
  • Other sexual assault charges

How Do I File a California School Sexual Abuse Lawsuit?

The Ojai Valley News reported that the charges against Herder include special allegations that “the crime involved great violence, great bodily harm, threat of great bodily harm, or other acts disclosing a high degree of cruelty, viciousness, or callousness,” and “the defendant took advantage of a position of trust or confidence to commit the offense.”

Herder is reportedly being held on $1,100,000 bail. His arraignment is set for Tuesday in Ventura County Superior Court.

On July 19, the Ojai Valley News received a statement from Joel Keeler, director of admissions and communications with Oak Grove School:

A former student came forward to report allegations of sexual misconduct by a former faculty member while they were attending Oak Grove High School. We immediately reported the allegations to Child Protective Services and to the Ventura County Sheriff’s Department Sexual Crimes Unit.” Keeler stated the school continues “to cooperate with the ongoing criminal investigation by the local authorities. We cannot share additional information at this time about this official investigation out of respect for the ongoing criminal proceedings and the former student’s confidentiality. The safety and well-being of our students are – and always will be – our primary concern. We are profoundly saddened and deeply upset by these allegations and grateful to this alum for their tremendous bravery in stepping forward with this information.

CBS News confirmed that Herder previously taught at a number of school locations around the United States as well as internationally:

  • Ojai, California
  • Los Angeles, California
  • Tucson, Arizona
  • Hamden, Connecticut
  • Pahoa, Hawaii
  • Bangor, Maine
  • Chesterfield, England
  • Unknown locations in Thailand
  • Unknown locations in Panama

Herder also worked as teen program director with the educational enrichment program, Rock Tree Sky, in Upper Ojai from 2017 through 2019, according to the Ojai Valley News.

Herder’s past experience includes teaching at public schools as well as private tutoring. Due to the nature of the alleged sex crimes, authorities are urging anyone with information related to a possible victim of Paul Herder to come forward immediately and contact Detective Nicole Grover of the Ventura County Sheriff’s Department’s Major Crimes Bureau, Sexual Assault Unit, at 805-384-4722 or nicole.grover@ventura.org,

Decades of Sexual Abuse Allegations at Ojai Private School in 2021

Oak Grove School isn’t the only Ojai-area facility that has been plagued by sexual abuse allegations. In 2021, officials from Ojai’s elite Thacher Boarding School released a report acknowledging decades of allegations over “student sexual misconduct, harassment, and ‘boundary crossing’ by faculty members.

The report included descriptions of countless instances involving alleged:

  • Rape
  • Groping
  • Unwanted touching
  • Inappropriate comments

The allegations dated back as far as 40 years, according to the Special Committee Report.

Shortly after the report was made public, Dordulian Law Group published a blog which included many first-hand survivor accounts of sexual misconduct from students who attended Thacher Boarding School.

Numerous lawsuits were filed against Thacher School, and the Committee Report admitted that the Board, faculty, and administrators “failed to protect students” in their care.

Thacher vowed to take action to prevent future sexual abuse, including:

  • Creating a “support fund” – a partnership between the Thacher administration and the Board of Trustees – to provide assistance with therapy related to the trauma of sexual misconduct endured while a student at the elite boarding school
  • Retaining a law firm (which conducted the investigation that led to the Committee Report) to receive reports of any sexual misconduct through the end of September 2021

In September 2021, Dordulian Law Group’s (DLG) founder and president, Sam Dordulian, was interviewed by the Daily Beast to discuss how Thacher School’s “rich donors” were vowing to “halt” financial contributions amid the damning sexual abuse report.

How to File Your School Sexual Abuse Lawsuit

When teachers, coaches, and other school employees violate the trust placed in them by sexually abusing students, civil lawsuits may be pursued by the survivor and/or his or her family members in an effort to secure justice and recover financial compensation for harm endured.

When you file a school or teacher sexual abuse claim with DLG, our dedicated team of sex crimes attorneys will fight aggressively to obtain a maximum cash settlement or verdict which includes all applicable damages:

  • Emotional trauma
  • Pain and suffering
  • Diminished quality of life
  • Punitive damages
  • Counseling or therapy expenses (past and future)
  • Lost wages or reduced earning capacity
  • Psychological harm
  • Prescription drug expenses
  • Medical care expenses or hospital bills

To speak with a member of DLG’s SAJE Team (Sexual Abuse Justice Experts) led by former sex crimes prosecutor Sam Dordulian, contact us today at 866-GO-SEE-SAM. DLG offers survivors of school and teacher sexual abuse a unique and all-encompassing form of legal representation which includes access to a team of top-rated attorneys, a retired LAPD sex crimes detective who serves as our in-house Chief Investigator, an in-house licensed clinical therapist, and an in-house victim advocate.

With DLG, you not only have access to the best sexual abuse attorneys around, but you also have 24/7 support from our four-tiered SAJE TEAM. Contact us today at 866-GO-SEE-SAM to take the first step toward securing the justice and maximum financial compensation you deserve.


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