Redlands Unified pays $ 11 million to settle another sexual abuse lawsuit – press enterprise

The Redlands Unified School District has agreed to pay $ 11 million to settle a lawsuit filed by seven victims and alleged victims of a former teacher at Clement Middle School who is serving a 74-year prison sentence for sexual abuse.

The settlement ends a litigation initially comprising four separate lawsuits totaling seven plaintiffs – all victims or alleged victims of Sean Ramiro Lopez, who taught eighth grade English at Clément from September 1999 until his arrest on February 21, 2002. The lawsuits, filed following the January 1, 2020, promulgation of a new state law which gives victims of child sexual abuse up to the age of 40 to bring civil suits, have been consolidated into one case, said Morgan Stewart, the plaintiffs’ attorney.

With the latest settlement, Redlands Unified has paid more than $ 41 million since 2016 to former students alleging teacher sexual abuse.

“They have all suffered since they were 13,” Stewart said of the plaintiffs. “No amount of money will be able to solve what they went through.”

Neighborhood: ‘Reprehensible and disturbing’

In a statement Thursday, Redlands Unified spokesman Tom DeLapp said the abuse suffered by Lopez was “reprehensible and disturbing.”

“We sincerely hope that this settlement will help provide victims of his crimes with support and resources to enable continued healing,” DeLapp said. “Redlands Unified, under the leadership of this administration, has set up aggressive reporting policies, practices and protocols that can prevent this kind of behavior from happening in the future.

“Everyone at Redlands Unified has been advised that sexual misconduct and / or non-reporting will not be tolerated and that we will take decisive and immediate action to address it. “

DeLapp said the ACT Now! The program “provides effective tools for victims and witnesses to come forward when they see something, hear something or even smell something related to suspicion of child abuse and harassment.”

The district covered up allegations

A year-long investigation by the Southern California News Group found that, for nearly two decades, the district covered up allegations of sexual abuse involving students, destroyed evidence, allowed teachers to continue attacking students, and ordered teachers and other staff not to cooperate with police during criminal investigations.

Among the most disturbing cases are Laura Whitehurst, a former English teacher and football coach at Citrus Valley High School who became pregnant with one of his students and gave birth to her child, and Kevin patrick kirkland, a former math teacher and golf coach at Redlands High School who preyed on and had sex with vulnerable female students, often at his home or in his car.

In both cases, school district administrators were aware of what was going on and did not take appropriate action.

School district paid $ 6 million to settle a lawsuit filed by the Whitehurst victim in August 2016. In August 2018, the District settled three lawsuits for $ 15.7 million on behalf of eight victims, including six victims or alleged victims of Kirkland, one of whom received $ 7 million.

“Child sexual abuse pit”

Stewart said the Lopez case was settled on August 24, but was not announced until Thursday, when the district handed over a check to the victims and the Irvine law firm of Manly, Stewart & Finaldi.

“The amount of this settlement and previous settlements illustrates the gross negligence of the board and trustees of the Redlands Unified School District,” Stewart said in a statement. “They made their neighborhood the worst cesspool of child sexual abuse in America, allowing at least three serial pedophiles to molest and assault children over the course of two decades.”

Lopez, a former Mentonian now aged 48, was sentenced in January 2006 to 74 years in prison for assaulting three students from late 1999 to 2001. Lopez waived his right to a jury trial and a judge found him guilty of 60 counts, including obscene acts and lascivious on a minor under 14 years old. He is serving his sentence at Mule Creek State Prison in Ione.

Lopez, according to court testimony, invited his victims to his home under the pretext that they would be participating in a clinical trial of experimental growth hormones and made them ingest pills which he said were part of the experiment. Lopez measured their genitals and asked the boys to masturbate while watching pornographic movies. Lopez extracted their semen using a syringe.

Early warning

Marilyn Kemple, then principal of Clement, was warned as early as 1999 of Lopez’s inappropriate behavior by students and parents, but did not call the police and take appropriate action. She called at least one student a liar and threatened to expel him, Stewart said.

A friend of one of the victims sent a complaint letter to Kemple in December 1999 – three months after Lopez was hired – which was produced as evidence in the civil litigation.

The letter said Lopez brought a tattoo magazine to school that had nude photos inside, asked a student how big his penis was, asked if he was masturbating, and the invited home for a beer.

“Their willful neglect and incompetence has ruined the lives of countless students and their families,” said Stewart.

About Monty S. Maynard

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