(SAN DIEGO – June 22, 2009) — On Monday afternoon, a San Diego Superior Court jury returned a verdict against the San Diego Unified School District for its role in allowing one of its teachers to engage in a sexual relationship with a student from the time she was 16 years old until she graduated in 2006.
The case was tried before the Honorable Richard Strauss by attorneys John Gomez and James Iagmin of the Gomez Law Firm representing the student, and Steve Cologne of Higgs, Fletcher & Mack representing the District. Both firms are in San Diego.
After eight days of trial and two days of deliberation, a jury of four men and eight women found that the former principal and some teachers at the School for Creative and Performing Arts in Paradise Hills suspected that former teacher John Lee was engaged in a sexual relationship with one of his students yet failed to report it as required under the Child Abuse Protection Reporting Act.
Lawyers for the student are asking that the student’s name be kept confidential to spare her any further embarrassment or humiliation.
The jury awarded a total of $250,000 for past and future psychiatric counseling for the student, now 21, and $1 million for emotional distress and related damages. Of that total amount, the jury found that Lee was 60 percent responsible and that the school district was 40 percent responsible. Gomez and Iagmin, lawyers for the girl, state that after costs and interest, the District will be responsible for paying over $700,000. This includes 40 percent of the $1 million ($400,000), all economic damages ($250,000), and about $50,000 for costs (this figure will be determined after the court adjudicates a motion for costs). Lee settled prior to the civil trial for an undisclosed sum, while the District offered absolutely nothing to settle prior to trial.
Lawyers for the girl stated that the main reason for the lawsuit was to force school districts to pay attention to what is so obviously a growing problem, and to ensure that future kids are free from abuse by their teachers.
“During this case, we were shocked to learn that the District does virtually nothing to prevent teacher-student sexual abuse,” Gomez noted. “Training is virtually non-existent, teachers don’t know the rules, and students themselves don’t know who to turn to if they see something that doesn’t look right,” Iagmin added, “We all know about no-tolerance when it comes to kids. How about the same standard when it comes to teacher misconduct?”
Jeanne Corso, mother of the student, stated, “We are very happy with the jury’s decision. The reason my daughter brought this case was to spare other students the pain that this preventable situation causes.”
After pleading guilty to statutory rape and three other sex-related charges, Lee was convicted of having a sexual relationship with a teenage student in September 2007 and was sentenced to 16 months in prison.
The Gomez Law Firm, based in San Diego, represents exclusively plaintiffs in high value business and injury cases. The firm has recovered more than $150 million in verdicts and settlements since 2000, including the largest wrongful death verdict in California history. The Gomez Law Firm is located at 625 Broadway, Suite 1200, San Diego. For more information, contact John Gomez or James Iagmin, 619-237-3490 or go to http://thegomezfirm.com.
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