Student Awarded $1.25M For Relationship With Teacher

A jury awarded $1.25 million to a former student at the School for Creative and Performing Arts in Paradise Hills because they found that the principal and others failed to report a sexual relationship between the student and her teacher.

Teacher John Kyujoon Lee pleaded guilty to statutory rape back in 2007. But now, the San Diego Unified School District must pay for its role in allowing the sexual relationship between Lee and a former student to go on for nearly three years.

Attorney John Gomez is hoping school districts across San Diego County start changing the way they handle sexual abuse. "School districts do next to nothing to prevent it, [or] to train teachers," he said.

On Monday, Gomez's client, the former School for Creative and Performing Arts student, won a civil suit against both the San Diego Unified School District and Lee. Lee and the student began a sexual relationship her sophmore year.

"She was a very young, naïve, somewhat nerdy kid and was lured into an adult sexual relationship," said Gomez.

The relationship continued until the student graduated in 2006.

Though Lee pleaded guilty to statutory rape and other sex-related charges in 2007, Gomez said the school and district needed to share in the responsibility.

"The two of them had been seen alone in his vehicle. The two of them had been seen alone in his classroom in what was described as a public display of affection," Gomez said. "Kids had gone to the administration complaining about the two of them."

Nothing was ever done, Gomez said. The jury agreed and awarded the student $1.25 million. Gomez said the case was not about the money but rather the message it sends.

"These teachers need a reality check," Gomez said. "And also they need to know that if they suspect anything at all they don't stand around the water cooler talking about it -- they go to the police, they go to CPS, they do the right thing."

The mother of the student said she was too overwhelmed and emotional to talk on camera.

The school district's attorney said they are disappointed with the verdict and deny any teachers or administrators ever knew about the relationship. They are now considering an appeal.