Sex & Education: Chain | Cohn | Stiles attorney discusses recent local sex issues involving educators

February 6, 2019 | 6:00 am


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.

If you or someone you know is sexually abused or assault by someone in authority, please call the attorneys at Chain | Cohn | Stiles at (661) 323-4000, or chat with us online at chainlaw.com.

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MEDIA COVERAGE

Attorney Neil Gehlawat, father give Delano high schools funding boost with generous donation

March 2, 2016 | 8:45 am


* Note: Neil Gehlawat is no longer an attorney at Chain | Cohn | Stiles *

Editor’s Note: Chain | Cohn | Stiles partner Neil Gehlawat and his father, Delano doctor Dilbagh Gehlawat, recently gave a more than generous donation to the Delano Joint Union School District, which was covered by local media. Below is the news release, with information about the donation and how it will help, followed by local media coverage. 

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The Delano Joint Union High School District has received a $100,000 donation from a Bakersfield family and Delano doctor to help provide after-school and weekend tutoring for high school students, mentors for nearby elementary students, scholarships, and a summer bridge program to help incoming high-schoolers succeed.

The donation was made by Dr. Dilbagh Gehlawat and son Neil Gehlawat, an attorney at Bakersfield law firm Chain | Cohn | Stiles. Dr. Gehlawat, a pediatrician, has taken care of children in Delano and surrounding areas for the past 35 years.

“We anticipate this donation could potentially reach hundreds of students,” district Superintendent Terri Nuckols said in a statement.

Said the Gehlawats in a statement: “We believe that education is the great equalizer in our society. No child, regardless of their socio-economic background, should be denied access to educational opportunities that will have a positive impact on their future. Our hope is that this donation will help provide high school students in Delano with the resources and opportunities needed to pursue a college education after high school.”

The donation will allow for the following programs in Delano:

  • Provide after-school tutoring by student mentors for high school students. Funding would pay for teacher coaches, tutor training, and funding additional after-school programs.
  • Provide music consultants and high-achieving students to mentor elementary students in music, math and science, including those in nearby rural school districts in Earlimart and Pond. Many elective programs in these areas were discontinued with the budget cuts over the past several years. Funding would be used to provide tutors, pay music consultants, provide training and for transportation.
  • Provide funding for Saturday school tutorials for students with attendance issues. The program will allow students to make up course work that was missed due to absences.  Funding would pay for sessions at all sites, mentoring, tutoring and instructors.
  • Provide a summer bridge program for incoming freshmen to introduce them to the high school experience and beyond. The program sets a 10-year plan where students could potentially earn college credit while in high school.
  • Provide scholarships to mentors and tutors who successfully participate in any of the programs above.

Dilbagh and Neil Gehlawat were honored at a recent DJUHSD school board meeting. The Gehlawats accepted a plaque from the school district administration.

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MEDIA COVERAGE