In recent weeks, local media has reported on several allegations of various sexual misconduct on behalf of educators in Kern County schools, and Chain | Cohn | Stiles attorney Matt Clark has provided expert insight on the legal issues.
Recently, local media reported on a local high school science teacher alleged to have appeared in pornographic videos, and a high school assistant principal alleged to have sexually abused a student.
For more on these news reports, including a radio interview with Matt Clark on the subject, see the “Media Coverage” links below.
Since Chain | Cohn | Stiles provides legal representation for victims of sexual abuse and assault at the hands teachers, law enforcement, coaches, and others in authority, local media spoke to Clark about the legal ramifications.
Teachers should have no social media or after-school contact whatsoever with their students, Clark advised.
Every year, Clark speaks to local high school coaches regarding liability in athletics. He advises them to never give out their cellphone numbers to students or interact with them on social media. And every year, he told The Bakersfield Californian, people ignore that advice. He’s had multiple cases come across his desk regarding teachers or coaches engaging in alleged inappropriate conduct with students, often starting online or through texts.
Clark said if a coach or teacher goes against his advice and does text a student or contact them online, the message shouldn’t contain anything they wouldn’t be embarrassed for their mother to see.
Any sexual contact, he said, “is clearly illegal.” In one case reported recently, a Highland High School student is suing the Kern High School District and former assistant principal claiming he sexually abused a homeless student who entered the school as part of a school-sponsored homeless assistance program. The assistant principal’s defense attorney says the allegations are false.
As for the case of the Frontier High School teacher appearing in porn videos, Clark told local media that the teacher could potentially file a wrongful termination lawsuit of the schools dismisses her, considering the allegations make no mention of sex acts involving students or occurring on school grounds.
“You’re on a really slippery slope here because obviously these are sensational circumstances, but where do you draw the line?” Clark told The Bakersfield Californian.
Teachers in California are subject to a set of guidelines called “Morrison factors” developed by the California Supreme Court to determine whether a person is fit to teach. They include the effect of the notoriety, impairment of teacher-student relationships, disruption of the education process and how recently the conduct occurred.
“You analyze the totality of the circumstances,” Clark said.
The typical cases Clark handles regarding schools involve incidents where a teacher or other school employee became involved in a sexual relationship with a student. That’s clearly illegal, he said, as opposed to what the teacher is alleged to have done. Still, he said, it shouldn’t come as a surprise to a teacher in such a situation for the case to have received intense media scrutiny.
“As a teacher you’re kind of a public figure, you’re considered a role model,” Clark said, “and if you put this type of material in a public forum where it can be found you’re kind of asking for trouble.”
What to do in a sexual abuse / assault case
Call for help: Always call the police, a rape hotline, or both following any form of sexual assault or abuse. The sooner you get in touch with someone, the sooner justice can be served.
See a doctor: Seek immediate medical care following a rape or sexual abuse. Hospitals often have specialists trained to help in these types of situations, and they often have someone on staff that can help with stress.
Contact at attorney: After you have taken all the aforementioned steps, contact a sexual assault and abuse lawyer.
- Attorney Matt Clark on First Look with Scott Cox (KERN Radio 1180, 96.1 – January 2019)
- Can Frontier High teacher who allegedly appeared in porn videos keep her job? Attorneys weigh in (The Bakersfield Californian – Jan. 30, 2019)
- Open talks recommended between parents and children regarding allegations of educator abuse and inappropriate behavior (The Bakersfield Californian – Feb. 2, 2019)