California school district settles sex abuse cases for $15M
Aug. 28, 2018
REDLANDS, Calif. (AP) — A Southern California school district agreed to pay more than $15 million to settle lawsuits by eight former students who say they were sexually abused by teachers and staff members, attorneys announced Tuesday.
The three cases involved former female students at Redlands High School and were settled Friday after the school district's insurance agency agreed to the sum, said attorney Morgan Stewart, who represents the eight young women.
One case includes six former students who say former special education teacher Kevin Patrick Kirkland sexually abused them at school and in his home and car between 2006 and 2016. Kirkland pleaded guilty to abusing students last year and served 13 months in jail.
The lawsuit that named Kirkland alleged that administrators at Redlands Unified School District knew he was a danger to students for years and did nothing.
"The district let it happen, unequivocally," Stewart said. "Every few years he got called out for doing something inappropriate with female students, he was told not to do it and then put back in the classroom. And those students who complained about him got moved to a different classroom."
The district said in a statement that it hopes the settlement "will be a basis for healing for the victims and their families." It said the district is examining its current policies and training and reporting protocols, and allocating resources "to help heighten our vigilance in student safety."
"Regrettably, Redlands Unified is unable to erase the repugnant actions of these individuals," according to the statement. "As a district, we will act swiftly, responsibly and with authority and determination when it comes to protecting the innocence of the children we are entrusted with."
The other two cases settled Friday involve Daniel Bachman, former technical director of the school's theater department, and Brian Townsley, a former English teacher. Neither was criminally prosecuted.
The San Bernardino Sun reported that Bachman acknowledged to police that he had a sexual relationship with a 15-year-old girl, but the San Bernardino District Attorney's Office declined to charge the case, citing insufficient evidence.
The newspaper said Townsley acknowledged being romantically involved with a girl, but she denied having a relationship with him.
The district attorney's office also cited insufficient evidence while declining to prosecute Townsley.
In 2016, the school district agreed to pay $6 million to a former student whose teacher became pregnant with his baby.
Laura Whitehurst pleaded guilty to unlawful sexual intercourse and oral copulation with three students at Redlands and Citrus Valley high schools; she served six months in jail.