Trial involving convicted sex offender, Burbank school district to begin

A lawsuit alleging Burbank Unified officials failed to properly oversee a teacher — convicted of having sex with a middle school student in 2009 — is scheduled to go to trial later this month.

Amy Beck, then an instructor at David Starr Jordan Middle School, turned herself into police in March 2010, admitting she had a sexual relationship with the then 14-year-old student between the spring and fall of the previous year.

She later pleaded no contest to one count each of unlawful sexual intercourse and committing a lewd act on a child. She was sentenced two years in prison, serving less than a year, but must register as a sex offender for the remainder of her life.

A lawsuit against Beck, 37, and the district followed in January 2011, accusing officials of, among other things, failing to train students, parents and teachers in reporting sexual abuse and recognizing its signs.

The lawsuit states Beck hired the student to baby-sit her children, selected him to work as her classroom aide, and made repeated sexual advances, including telling him she wanted to "teach him" about sex.

"We're looking forward to our day in court," attorney Brian Leinbach said Friday, adding that he hopes the case will "hold Burbank Unified responsible for having no policies in place to protect children from childhood sexual abuse," he said.

District attorneys, however, dispute officials were at fault for the abuse.

In a document submitted by attorney Nancy Doumanian, they say that no Burbank Unified employee, including Jordan Middle School's former principal — Sharon Cuseo — knew what was occurring between the student and Beck until after Beck turned herself into the police.

It also alleges that the plaintiff's parents never complained to Cuseo or to any other district employee about their son's relationship with Beck any time before Beck turned herself in, nor did any employee see the two in a "compromising situation."

Doumanian declined to comment any further on the case on Friday.

According to a court declaration filed this past January, the former teacher has been employed since 2012 at an unidentified firm in Los Angeles.

Even with her employment, her income does not cover her rent payment or other bills, leaving her to receive financial assistance from relatives to cover her monthly expenses, according to the declaration.

She also stated that she reached a $25,000 settlement with the plaintiff through her attorneys, a sum she would in part pay with her homeowner's insurance policy, and the remainder — $12,500 — herself.

"In order to fund my portions of the settlement with plaintiff, I voluntarily cashed out my retirement plan with the California State Teachers Retirement System. I had to pay significant penalties, including early withdrawal penalties that totaled 20 percent of the total value of the retirement account," Beck stated in the declaration.

Her attorney, Milton Fajardo, declined to comment on the settlement or on other matters tied to the case.

Leinbach also said Friday that the settlement amount reached in the case between Beck and the plaintiff he is representing was "not important." Instead, what is more crucial is that Beck testify at the trial, a requirement reached within the terms of the settlement, he said.

"I want her to be at the trial to explain to the jury what she was doing at Jordan Middle School," he said, adding that he hopes the case against Burbank Unified "sends a signal" to the school district and others about catching and stopping child abuse.

The trial is scheduled to begin March 19 in downtown Los Angeles.


Follow Kelly Corrigan on Twitter: @kellymcorrigan.


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