Victims of sexual abuse at a California high school were “negligent” and partly to blame for what happened to them, the Redlands (Calif.) Unified School District argues in a court document.
The San Bernardino Sun reports that an attorney for the school district contends that the victims, students at Redland High School who were abused by one of their teachers, "failed to use that degree of care and caution which a reasonably prudent person would have used under the same or similar circumstances.”
The district's argument was put forth in a legal filing in a consolidated lawsuit brought by six plaintiffs, all special-needs students, who said they were victimized by former Redlands High School teacher Kevin Kirkland.
Kirkland was arrested in May 2016 and subsequently pleaded guilty to molesting four female Redlands High School students. He was sentenced in June 2017 to two years in prison and after being granted credit for time served, was released from custody the same day.
The school district argues that any damages it may face should be reduced because of the victims’ culpability in their abuse.
Morgan Stewart, a lawyer representing Kirkland’s victims, calls the school district’s assertions “one more example of a long pattern of victim blaming and attempts to shame those who speak out about Redlands Unified School District.”
“To call vulnerable young girls ‘at fault’ and ‘negligent’ when they are the victims of abuse is amongst the most base and despicable behavior by individuals who are entrusted with the safety of those in society that need the protection the most,” Stewart said in a news release.
Redlands school district spokesman Tom DeLapp called Stewart’s comments “outrageous and inflammatory.”
“The complaint made against the Redlands Unified School District and several of its past and present employees contains claims of a very serious nature by six different plaintiffs,” DeLapp said in a statement. “Each plaintiff’s claim contains numerous and discrete factual allegations, presenting a number of different theories of potential liability for the District. The District’s answer to these complaints contains all defenses which it could possibly be asserted against any plaintiff in the future, as required by law.”
Stewart contends that Redlands High School and the school district engaged in a decade-long pattern of collusion and cover-up of sexual abuse allegations against Kirkland.