NewsTeam 10 Investigates


Sweetwater Union High School District faces suit over alleged sex abuse

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Posted at 6:18 PM, Dec 02, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-03 01:26:05-05

CHULA VISTA, Calif. (KGTV) - For the first time, former students of Chula Vista High School are going on camera, saying that they were sexually abused by a former teacher and that the district should have done more to stop his actions. The young women are now taking their claims to court.

“I’m ruined by this. Everything that happened is still with me,” one of the women told ABC 10News. ABC 10News is not showing her face or sharing her name, since she says that she was sexually assaulted by her teacher when she was still a minor at the school around 2015. ABC 10News is not naming him because he has not been criminally charged.

“[He had been] putting his hands up my shirt and into my back [and] checking for bra straps. He would ask me what I'm wearing, like what specific undergarments I'm wearing,” she added.

She and another young woman are now suing Sweetwater Union High School District and two of its top administrators for negligent supervision, among other complaints.

The district denies any wrongdoing.

“For years, [the teacher] openly and flagrantly committed acts of sexual harassment against his female students,” the suit reads in part.

“There were so many red flags,” said attorney Jessica Pride. She’s representing two of the three alleged victims. “It was reported to the vice-principal and the principal of the school who then started an investigation,” she added.

ABC 10News obtained a copy of the district’s 2017 investigation which stated in part that it was the investigator's conclusion that conduct exhibited by the teacher was “sexual in nature" and was “both pervasive and severe” and “created a hostile and intimidating environment for the three complainants.”

“I feel like it got worse and worse as time went on,” said the second woman who is being represented by Pride. “He would smack our butts. That was in class. He would call us into his office and touch our thighs. That was in class,” she added.

She shared screengrabs of texts that she said he had sent her. “He eventually started texting me ‘kissy’ faces and 'I love you. Where were you today? I miss you. I can't wait to see you again,’” she told ABC 10News.

She said that he took her and another student to the mall to buy outfits for a school event and while they were there, she said that he pressured her to try on tight clothing. “I tried on at least 20 dresses, and he took pictures of all of them from every which angle,” she said.

As she recalled the memory, she broke down in tears and paused the interview.

“It was so detrimental, just knowing all the things that he would say to me and [he would] reduce me to only being good for my body,” said the first woman who added that his behavior caused her to feel suicidal. “My mental health was getting really bad at that point,” she added.

In response to the school district's 2017 investigation findings, the school district’s investigator interviewed the former teacher who denied the allegations and claimed that the investigation and its findings were flawed.

The Chula Vista Police Department confirmed that its officers also investigated the case and sent their findings to the DA’s Office, which declined to prosecute.

The DA’s Office stated, “The Chula Vista Police Department submitted their investigation to our office in early 2017. It was thoroughly reviewed, and we declined to file charges in April of 2017. As you may be aware, when we decline to file criminal charges, it is because we do not believe we can prove the charges beyond a reasonable doubt or overcome other legal hurdles—which is our ethical standard for criminal prosecution, and one that understandably is higher than the civil standard of 'preponderance of evidence.' In the intervening years, our office conducted two additional reviews of the evidence but remained unable to file criminal charges.”

According to the lawsuit, the district agreed to a resignation deal, showing in part that the teacher would get paid leave for the remainder of the 2017 to 2018 school year, before resigning.

It reads that "neither party will comment [publicly] about the investigation" and in response to any inquiries, district staff would say that he has “voluntarily resigned from the district, and we wish him well.”

ABC 10News requested copies of internal emails among staff.

When it appeared that a teacher asked how to respond to questions from students and parents, the administrator wrote in part that “personnel matters are confidential."

In response to the lawsuit that the women filed against the Sweetwater Union High School District and administrators, the district filed paperwork that it generally denies the allegations.

A statement sent to ABC 10News by a district spokesperson reads, "While the district's general practice is to not comment on pending litigation in order to maintain the privacy rights of all individuals involved, and is saddened that the plaintiffs contend that they were harmed as a result of the conduct of a former employee, it disagrees with the allegation in the lawsuit that the district took inappropriate action when it entered into an agreement to accept the employee's resignation. Both law enforcement and the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing were notified of the allegations against the employee, and neither entity determined that the allegations were sufficient to warrant adverse action."

ABC 10News tried contacting the former teacher directly for comment but have not heard back.

He continued to work locally as an educator at Christian Youth Theater (CYT), the El Cajon company that's been mired in controversy over different educators' sexual abuse allegations.

In 2018, CYT confirmed to ABC 10News that he worked for them, writing in part, "The Sweetwater District did not give any indication that he was under investigation when we checked his references. None of our students have ever complained of any questionable behavior by [him].”

He no longer works there. CYT did not respond to ABC 10News’ recent emails.

He also worked at Lakeside Middle School. The Lakeside Union School District’s superintendent wrote to ABC 10News in part, “I cannot confirm if Sweetwater shared the information with the district before his employment. I do know that the Lakeside Union School District did employ this person for a very brief time. When the news came out with the story of the investigation, the district separated from the employee.”

“The thought of that happening to anyone else is infuriating,” added the second woman who ABC 10News interviewed.

It is unknown if he is currently teaching elsewhere. The state agency that oversees credentialing wrote to ABC 10News that it does not maintain real-time employment data.