Attorney B. Robert Allard Finalizes Settlement in School Molestation Case
When you send your child to school every day, you do so with the expectation that your child’s school, teachers, and administration will do everything possible to keep him or her safe. Accidents, however, do happen, and your child may come home with a bruise or a scraped knee. But what if your child came to you and said that he or she was being sexually abused by a teacher? Assuming the allegations are proven to be true, could the school bear any responsibility for allowing such abuse to occur? A tragic case from the San Jose region recently posed that exact question.
Patterns of Sexual Abuse
In the fall of 2015, a Bay Area teacher was sentenced to 40 years in prison after pleading no contest to charges that he molested four fifth-grade girls, including three at Paradise Valley Elementary School in Morgan Hill between 2012 and 2014. The fourth victim was a student at a school where the teacher worked in 2005. According to reports, the teacher isolated his victims, locking them inside a classroom with paper-covered windows during recess and lunch periods.
Potential School Liability
While the teacher must now face the criminal consequences of his actions, the case raised critical concerns about the policies and behavior of school administrators. Attorney B. Robert Allard, a partner at Corsiglia McMahon & Allard, L.L.P. and lead counsel for the victims and their families, said that parents repeatedly reported the teacher’s behavior to three different principals in the Morgan Hill Unified School District between 2009 and 2013, but the complaints never went any further. Allard indicated that the police were not notified and no records of the reports were forwarded to the school district.
Multimillion Dollar Settlement
As a result of the failures by the school and the district, Allard helped the families file a lawsuit against the district for failing to protect the children under its care. Last month, the two sides reached a settlement agreement in the district will pay each of the three victims $2.75 million. The fourth victim could not seek civil damages due to the California statute of limitations. In addition, the school district will be required to implement staff training to identify sexual predators and a sexual abuse prevention program for students.
Reading Between the Lines
The settlement agreement contains the expected provision stating that the payments are not a formal admission of any liability. According to Allard, however, the amount of the payments makes a strong statement nonetheless. He said the sums to be paid would not have been on the table unless the district knew that evidence would show a clear failure to protect the young victims. “The money speaks for itself in that regard,” Allard said.
A Better Road Ahead
At present, teachers in districts throughout the state are required to undergo mandatory reporter training, but Mr. Allard believes that it is not enough. Educators may have an obligation to report suspected abuse, but “the hole in that is they’re not trained to know what to look for as part of that suspicion,” Allard said. He maintains that predator identification training is a vital part of preventing sexual abuse, and he is currently working with lawmakers to implement more comprehensive training programs statewide.
Call Us for Help Today
If you or your child has been the victim of sexual abuse by a teacher, babysitter, or any other authority figure, criminal justice is not always enough. Contact Mr. Allard and his team of compassionate San Jose personal injury attorneys to learn about your options for seeking civil damages. Call 408-289-1417 for a free, confidential consultation today.