Report: Sexually Abusive California Teachers Moved From ‘School to School’

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California Teachers Who Sexually Abused Students Kept Teaching Due to Oversights

California Teachers Who Sexually Abused Students Kept Teaching Due to Oversights

Apr 17, 2023

An investigation by CBS Reports found systemic oversight failures by American public schools in holding teachers accused of sexual abuse accountable. The report noted that “little is being done” in enforcing accountability on the part of school districts when sexual abuse allegations and even charges are brought against educators they employ.

“Systemwide oversight failures at the local, state, and federal levels have enabled the sexual abuse of children in American schools to persist with virtually no monitoring of such incidents,” CBS said.

CBS also referenced a troubling 2010 report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) which confirmed that the practice of reinstating teachers accused of sexual abuse is one that is repeated in schools across the United States. Such an oversight, the GAO report notes, risks harm to “millions of children.”

“On average, one offender passes through three different school districts before being stopped, and can abuse as many as 73 children in their lifetime,” the GAO report said.

Failing to report reasonable suspicion of sexual abuse is a crime, CBS reported. However, federal officials and experts told the network that they believe school administrators “often do not contact authorities for fear of damaging the reputation of a teacher or the school.” Moreover, teachers told CBS that they observed a “culture that discouraged reporting suspicions of misconduct in their schools.”

“This is a phenomenon of child abuse that we allow to happen under our noses,” Catherine Lhamon, assistant secretary for civil rights at the federal Department of Education, told CBS. “It’s something that we’ve known conclusively for decades but we have insufficient collective will as a country to stop it.”

As for why teachers are able to move from “school to school” despite being either accused or even charged with committing child sexual abuse, the CBS report highlighted glaring issues within the educational oversight system:

  • No state or national databases exist to track school sexual abuse incidents.
  • As a result, authorities don’t have hard data on where abuse is happening (or how pervasive the problem is).
  • A lack of data effectively enables the abuse to continue, as federal officials and national experts have confirmed.

School sexual abuse is a pervasive issue impacting kids across the nation. As we’ve discussed in several past blogs, a number of cases involving both teacher and school sex abuse have recently made headlines here in Southern California.

CBS Report Cites Redlands Unified Sexual Abuse Scandal

The CBS report specifically referenced a local California school district – Redlands Unified – which has come under scrutiny for its handling of numerous high-prefile sexual abuse cases.

Redlands has faced a total of 23 lawsuits filed over the past decade, and more than 50 former students have sued the school over alleged sexual abuse, CBS confirmed. Nine additional lawsuits are reportedly ongoing, with a trial for one case scheduled to begin in May.

Although Redlands Unified has paid out more than $41 million in settlements over the past 10 years to former students who claimed teachers sexually abused them, there has been no admission of guilt on the part of the district or its officials.

“The district is not in a position to comment as to any of the litigation allegations,” Christine Stephens, public information officer for the Redlands Unified School District, said to CBS.

Stephens did say that “most of the acts” involved in the lawsuits took place between 1995 and 2016. “The administration has taken swift and appropriate actions when there has been a violation of law or board policy,” she said. The district reportedly implemented new policies over sexual abuse in 2018.

However, it is worth noting that the CBS school sex abuse investigative report confirmed that no one in the Redlands Unified School District administration has faced any charges or lost jobs/credentials over their handling of teacher sexual abuse allegations.

CBS further noted that the California Attorney General’s Office has a division specifically tasked with identifying and correcting “systemic failures and/or severe, widespread harm against children served by a local public entity,” including sexual abuse in schools. However, the Attorney General’s press office “refused to name or say how many employees are actively assigned to the unit.” When pressed by CBS Reports, “it [the California A.G.’s Office] could not identify a single case it has filed related to sexual abuse in public schools.”

More School Districts Hit With Multi-Million Dollar Sexual Abuse Lawsuits in 2022

As we noted in a February blog, a report from Education Week confirmed that a number of school districts across the United States have been hit with sexual misconduct lawsuits leading to settlements of $1 million or more.

According to the report:

  • 69 publicly reported damages awards and settlements of $1 million or more among K-12 schools and colleges were recorded in 2022.
  • That figure – the total number of damages awards and settlements – was up from 38 which equaled $1 million or more in 2021.

Those figures are troubling, but the Education Week school sexual abuse report cautions that the statistics are likely an underestimate of the true number of million-dollar settlements given that the data is only pulled from publicly available records and reports. “There are likely some settlements and jury awards that aren’t public,” Education Week said.

More School Sexual Abuse Survivors Filing Claims for Damages

Education Week cited trends which may influence how survivors of school sexual abuse pursue justice.

More and more survivors of teacher and school sexual abuse are choosing to file civil lawsuits seeking financial compensation. Education Week noted that the increase in school sexual abuse claims could be due to:

  • A growing tendency by sexual abuse victims to hold institutions accountable for how they address abuse
  • State law changes that allow more childhood sexual abuse survivors to sue
  • A greater mistrust of educational institutions which has spurred more lawsuits and larger jury awards

“Beyond the legal and financial consequences, there’s an emotional impact, as students and staff members come to terms with potential wrongdoing by their district, and a reputational cost,” Education Week said.

CDC: Sexual Violence Among Teenage Girls Increased During Pandemic

A troubling report from the CDC confirmed that the COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns have had a negative impact on teenage girls in relation to mental health and sexual violence.

The CDC study confirmed:

  • 30% of teen girls have seriously considered dying by suicide (a significant increase from the percentage recorded 10 years ago).
  • One in five teen girls reported experiencing sexual violence in the past year.
  • 14% of all teenage girls had been forced to have sex (a staggering 27% increase since 2019).

“High school should be a time for trailblazing, not trauma,” Dr. Debra Houry of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said upon the release of the Youth Risk Behavior Survey results. “These data show our kids need far more support to cope, hope and thrive.”

Filing a School Sexual Abuse Lawsuit: What to Know

If you are a survivor of school sexual assault or abuse, filing a civil lawsuit with Dordulian Law Group (DLG) can help you secure justice on your own terms and recover the financial compensation you deserve. A civil lawsuit is separate from any criminal proceedings that may be brought against a sexual predator by the District Attorney’s Office.

By contacting DLG’s California school sex abuse attorneys for a free consultation, we will review your case and provide you with all available legal options. We will fight tirelessly to secure all applicable damages for past harm endured by a teacher, principal, counselor, coach, or clergy member:

  • Medical care/treatment costs (past and future)
  • Hospital expenses
  • Counseling or therapy expenses (past and future)
  • Pain and suffering
  • Emotional trauma/psychological harm
  • Diminished quality of life
  • Lost wages due to the sexual abuse
  • Lost earning capacity due to the sexual abuse
  • Punitive damages

Spotting signs of School Sexual Abuse Under California Law?

Examples of recent California school sexual abuse lawsuits that have been settled and garnered major headlines include:

  • A San Jose school was ordered to pay $7.5 million to five men who were sexually abused by their elementary school teacher in the late 1970s and early ’80s.
  • Survivors of a former Sun Valley high school wrestling coach were awarded a $52 million settlement in October 2022. The complaint alleged that the Los Angeles Unified School District knew of prior sexual misconduct and did nothing about it.
  • A jury awarded $102.5 million in March 2022 to two women who sued a Northern California school district. The complaint alleged that officials failed to stop a middle school teacher from sexually grooming and abusing them as minors.
  • In April 2022, a $13.7 million settlement was reached with the Riverside Unified School District after 10 students alleged sexual abuse by former school technology aide Fernando Figueroa. The survivors ranged between the ages of 7 and 11 at the time of the abuse.
  • An $11 million school sex abuse settlement was reached between Redlands Unified School District and seven survivors. The plaintiffs, initially named in four separate lawsuits, accused 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).

Ready to file a claim and pursue justice through a financial damages award? Our expert attorneys are available online or by phone now.

To discuss your school sexual abuse civil lawsuit confidentially and without any obligation, contact a member of DLG’s SAJE Team today at 866-GO-SEE-SAM. During your free consultation, you will be able to have any questions answered and our school sexual abuse attorneys will provide an estimate for how long your case may take to settle (and the approximate overall value of your projected settlement). DLG was founded by Sam Dordulian, a former sex crimes prosecutor and Deputy District Attorney for Los Angeles County whose more than 25 years of experience includes obtaining life sentences against some of our community’s most dangerous sex offenders.

When you’re ready to take the first step toward securing justice for past school sexual abuse, we’re here to fight aggressively on your behalf and hold the perpetrators accountable.

Go See Sam