The family of a Burbank teenager who had a sexual relationship with his middle school teacher has filed a lawsuit against the school district alleging that it failed to safeguard the student from an aggressive predator.
In March, Amy Beck, a sixth-grade teacher at Jordan Middle School, shocked the Burbank community when she turned herself in to police for having sex with her then-14-year-old student, who has not been identified.
The liaison took place from March to September 2009, and involved sex acts at the teacher’s Burbank home and on the Jordan Middle School campus, according to the lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.
Beck’s attorney, Michael Williamson, described her as feeling “quite guilty and very remorseful” at the time she surrendered to police.
She pleaded no contest to two charges of unlawful sex with a minor and was sentenced to two years in prison. Beck, 34, is housed at the Central California Women’s Facility in Chowchilla, and will face three years of parole after her release. She must also register as a sex offender for life.
The lawsuit, which was filed on Sept. 27 but received Tuesday by Burbank Unified, seeks unspecified damages and characterizes Beck as a sexual predator who meticulously groomed her victim for two years.
Burbank Unified Supt. Stan Carrizosa said the lawsuit was being reviewed by attorneys for the West San Gabriel Joint Powers Authority, the district’s insurance liability pool.
He declined to comment on the specifics of the lawsuit, but did say that Burbank Unified has policies and training in place that address sexual harassment, and teacher-student interaction rules that are comparable, if not better, than those of other districts where he has previously worked.
“From what I can tell, there is a good set of board policies in place,” Carrizosa said. “They are very clear and explicit.”
The boy’s family alleges in the lawsuit that Beck used her position of authority to manipulate her victim, hiring him to babysit her three young children, taking him on an outing to Universal Studios and selecting him as her teacher’s aide.
The lawsuit also alleges that Beck made repeated, unwanted advances, aggressively kissing him and telling him she wanted to “teach him” about sex.
“She started this campaign when he was in the sixth grade,” said Lon Isaacson, the plaintiff’s attorney. “Is the defense going to say that in the years of special attention devoted to this boy that not one sophisticated adult … had one question about this?”
School officials are legally obligated to protect their students, Isaacson said, and should have noted the excessive one-on-one time. Burbank Unified staff failed to provide even basic safeguards, he argued.
“The school controls were nonexistent,” Isaacson said. “Amy Beck had sexual relations with a child in a school bathroom. There were no monitors. There was no system in place. There were no guards to protect children from a predatory teacher.”
The victim, now 16, fell in love with Beck, Isaacson said. Their tryst left him humiliated and emotionally traumatized, and he will require long-term psychological therapy. Isaacson declined to say whether the family continues to live in Burbank, or whether the boy remains enrolled in Burbank Unified.
“The family is finding this most difficult to cope with because they have been gravely wounded,” Isaacson said. “They are doing the best they can. It is obviously a very troubling situation.”
Also named as defendants in the suit are Beck, Jordan Middle School Principal Sharon Cuseo and the estate of former Burbank Unified Supt. Kevin Jolly.