Monday, September 21, 2015

California School District Settles Sex Abuse Lawsuit

Middle school teacher, Andre Edwards
The Belmont-Redwood Shores School District has agreed to settle a civil lawsuit alleging sexual abuse by a teacher of a student more than a decade ago.  The settlement (as with most civil agreements to compromise a claim for money damages) does not acknowledge any wrongdoing on the part of the district, however, the settlement figure in excess of a million dollars speaks to the potential legal exposure.  The case was settled three days before a trial was set to begin.

The lawsuit alleges that Andre Edwards, a former middle school teacher, molested plaintiff, Roxanne Pedro, during school and was allowed to remain employed for another decade until he molested a second student.  Edwards plead guilty and served jail time for both offenses.

As with most sexual abuse claims alleged against individuals in supervisory roles of children, the victim was initially not believed.  This lead to a delay in the criminal prosecution of the teacher in question, which is also not unusual.  The case is a prime example of how the civil justice system is often the only outlet where truth can be revealed and justice served even long after the abuse takes place.  California allows for fairly liberal standards in presenting abuse claims if it can be shown that the individual was a minor and/or that the person suffered from repressed memories of the abuse.

In this case, the civil attorneys were able to use the power of discovery including demanding documentation and deposing key witnesses to reveal that the school district had ignored many red flags in continuing to employ the teacher in question.  Under California law, school officials are required to report and request investigation from the Department of Child Protective Services any allegation of abuse of a minor.  Oftentimes, these incidents go unreported, however, despite these legal requirements.

For assistance with any civil claim for money damages related to allegations of sexual assault or abuse of a student by a teacher in California, please visit our website for more information.