A girl who was sexually abused numerous times by her Diamond Bar middle school teacher and later accused the school district of ignoring early signs of misconduct has been awarded $8 million by a jury.
The case involved former teacher Steven Andrews.
Andrews, who taught at Lorbeer Middle School, is already serving more than 15 years in prison after being convicted of 17 felonies, including several counts of unlawful sexual intercourse with the then-14-year-old girl.
The girl said Andrews repeatedly gave her passes to leave other teachers' classes to be alone with him, had physical contact with her inside his locked classroom and had sex with her at his home and when they were supposed to be on a school trip to Disneyland, court records show.
Attorney John C. Taylor, who represents the now 19-year-old woman, said the verdict reflected the years of pain his client suffered and he criticized administrators who ignored warnings from teachers.
"They had red flag after red flag about Andrews' behavior toward her. They truly looked the other way. They were more worried about the school district or the teacher," he said.
During a 10-day trial, attorneys for the Pomona Unified School District argued that all of the dozen sex acts between the teacher and student had occurred off campus and that the school principal did not know Andrews posed a reasonable foreseeable risk of harm to students.
In a statement after the verdict, the district wrote that its "highest priority remains the health and safety of all its students, faculty and staff. In this case, the actions of the teacher were unacceptable, unlawful, and led to his immediate termination," the statement said. "The District has taken this matter very seriously from its inception. We diligently adhere to background checks and protocols before hiring, including monitoring updates. As we move forward, we will remain diligent in our efforts to do everything within our authority to continue to protect our students."
The Pomona Unified district must pay 80% of the judgment, with Andrews being deemed responsible for the rest.
Officials did not say Wednesday whether they would appeal the judgment, which was issued Monday in Los Angeles Superior Court.
The student's attorneys had argued that as early as 2001, other teachers had complained that too many girls were hanging out in Andrews' classroom. One teacher complained that Andrews removed students too frequently from other classes for activities.
Andrews began teaching the victim's seventh-grade history class in 2009, when she was 12.
By the fall of 2010, he was giving her gifts and spending time alone with her, according to court records. He regularly wrote hall passes to release the girl from her other classes despite objections from teachers, court records show.
Her attorneys in court documents stated that by the spring of 2011, Andrews was having sexual contact with her in his locked classroom and in the school gym. Another staff member warned him "to be careful and knock it off" with the girl after witnessing the pair alone in the locked classroom, according to a trial brief by her attorneys.
In May 2011, Andrews took a day off and drove the girl to his home, where they had sex. She was 14. He was 41.
On the same day, the school principal wanted to talk to the girl, and when he could not find her on campus called her mother and then Andrews. The principal asked Andrews where the child was and he pledged to locate her. Shortly afterward, the girl walked into the school with Andrews and a security officer, court records show.
The principal informed the assistant superintendent about the incident, but no formal investigation was done, court records show.
In June on a school trip to Disneyland, Andrews drove to Anaheim, picked the girl up and took her to a hotel, where they had sex a second time, according to court records.
Andrews' wife, then found compromising texts on his phone and told another teacher, who informed the principal, according to a trial record.
Andrews was later convicted on 17 counts: six counts of unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor, two counts of oral copulation of a person under 16, five counts of sexual penetration by a foreign object, three counts of lewd act upon a child and one count of possession or control of child pornography
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