A Redlands high school teacher who has been on leave more than 21/2 years is set to face accusations in court Tuesday that she sexually seduced one of her students, even checking the girl out of school so they could be together.
Megan Kelly, a teacher at Redlands East Valley High School, was not charged when prosecutors reviewed the case in 2011 but is now being taken to civil court to face her accuser, a former student who says the instructor preyed on her typical school-girl weaknesses and, over time, began sexually abusing her.
The student, who is not being identified because of the nature of the allegations, is suing Kelly for sexual battery and emotional distress, and the school district for failing to take action in the case.
"They let this girl be sexually abused repeatedly. They had plenty of warnings they ignored," said John Manly, the former student's attorney and a veteran litigator who help secure nearly $1 billion in settlements in sexual abuse cases involving priests.
It is the second time in recent months that a Redlands Unified School District teacher has been accused. A 28-year-old teacher was sentenced in July to a year in jail for having sex with three of her students, one of whom fathered her baby.
Kelly, 32, has denied the accusations. Her attorney said she is being falsely accused, pointing out that the allegations weren't reported until two years after the alleged events.
Manly, though, calls it a classic case of sexual abuse, alleging that the teacher first groomed the teenager and then took advantage of her.
The district, Manly alleges, ignored signs that something was amiss. In one incident, Kelly was disciplined after she excused the student from a class in 2009, saying she was working on a soccer event. Kelly was not at school that day and, after initially authorizing that absence, called back to change it, according to a police report. The principal issued a letter of reprimand to Kelly, records show.
San Bernardino County prosecutors declined to charge Kelly, citing insufficient evidence and noting that the case was "difficult" because the plaintiff had taken two years to report her allegations.
"The only corroboration is the phone records and although the calling of the student by a teacher is probably inappropriate, it doesn't help us establish there was a sexual relationship between the two," prosecutors said.
In court papers, Kelly's lawyer wrote she is heterosexual and that the plaintiff had a "crush" on her. The papers also said the dozens of phone calls were mostly connected with the student "coming out."
The teacher's attorney, Randy Winet, asserts that the former student got help from Kelly on her biology course work while she was in college and that the accuser even came back to school to help with soccer coaching.
Initially, the district's lawyers had argued that the young woman and her parents were negligent, careless and put her in harm's way. They have since dropped that legal tack.
In a legal response, Manly wrote: "The simple truth is these defenses are a variations of the 'she asking for it defense' disguise, wrapped up in flowery legal language."