A student who fathered a child with an ex-Redlands schoolteacher convicted of having sex with him and two other students has sued the school district, alleging educators were negligent and complicit in his sexual battery.
In the lawsuit filed Wednesday, attorneys for the student allege that school officials knew of prior issues with Laura Whitehurst and had failed to warn his family. The suit also alleges that a teaching colleague of Whitehurst's and fellow soccer coach were aware of her relationship with the student and that school officials even questioned the pair when she became pregnant.
"School staff knew Whitehurst was in a sexual relationship with the boy and they had a duty to help to protect kids," said attorney Vince Finaldi, one of his lawyers.
Whitehurst, 29, was arrested last July and charged with 41 felony counts. Facing up to 29 years in prison, she pleaded guilty to four counts of unlawful sexual intercourse and two counts of oral copulation of a person under 18 involving three boys while teaching at Citrus Valley and Redlands high schools. She was sentenced to a year in jail but was released after six months.
She remains on probation for five years and undergoes counseling.
The student who fathered Whitehurst's baby said the relationship lasted more than a year. The now 18-year-old told authorities Whitehurst began driving him home from school functions, spending long hours with him and eventually grabbed his hand on a Disneyland trip and told him she wanted to kiss him.
Shortly after the trip, she and the boy began having repeated sexual intercourse at her apartment. Whitehurst gave birth to their child in June 2013 and the boy attended the birth.
He said Whitehurst gave him alcohol and told him it was a "miracle pregnancy" because she did not believe she could get pregnant. She even gave him a Bible on his 17th birthday and would take him to church, he said.
In asking a judge to reject the plea bargain with prosecutors last year, the boy said "physically, I feel sick to my stomach thinking about the manipulation I was subjected to." Whitehurst had two prior sexual relationships with boys while teaching at the district's Redlands High School, officials say.
Redlands Unified School District officials said Thursday that the allegations in the lawsuit are untrue.
However, according to a Redlands police search warrant served last year, the school district began investigating the accusations six weeks before reporting it on July 1, 2013, but "failed to report suspected child abuse as mandated" to police or social workers.
Superintendent Lori Rhodes said the district received the first credible information about a possible relationship on July 1, when the teen's mother reported it to school officials, who then immediately called police.
Rhodes last year said someone reported in mid-May that the student and teacher might be involved but did not provide any evidence. At the time, both were interviewed and were "adamant that nothing improper had occurred, and there was no credible evidence to contrary," according to a statement.
The lawsuit also alleges that the district has a pattern of ignoring sexual abuse, noting that a friend of Whitehurst's, Megan Kelly, a former Redlands East Valley High School teacher, was sued by a female student for sexual abuse. The district settled that case on the eve of trial for $505,000.
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