Chain | Cohn | Stiles attorney provides legal commentary following North High School sexual misconduct allegations

February 27, 2019 | 10:48 am


A local high school athletic equipment manager has been arrested on suspicion of having sexual contact with current and former students. And as yet another local school employee is arrested on suspicion of sexual misconduct with a student, Chain | Cohn | Stiles personal injury attorney Matt Clark provided insight to media on the ongoing problem, and the effects on victims.

According to the Kern County Sheriff’s Office, Edwin Rodriguez, 40, who worked at North High School in north Bakersfield, was arrested on suspicion of lewd and lascivious acts with minors 14 to 15 years old, exhibiting harmful matter to a minor, annoying a child under 18 and false imprisonment. He faces 11 felony counts and 13 misdemeanor counts.

For media coverage of this case with Clark’s legal commentary, see “Media Coverage” at the bottom of this post.

According to media reports, 10 people have come forward to investigators alleging inappropriate physical contact and other unwanted interaction. Rodriguez allegedly sent explicit messages, including photos and videos, to eight juvenile students through the social media platform Snapchat and that he had sexual contact with several of the victims dating back to 2015. One of the alleged student victims at North High estimated they had witnessed over 300 conversations with Rodriguez of a sexual nature involving students, both male and female, according to court documents.

The arrest of Rodriguez comes after several other sexual misconduct cases in recent months. In December, former Liberty High School boys basketball coach was charged on suspicion of annoying or molesting a child under the age of 18. Also, a Kern County jury awarded $10 million to a girl who was allegedly molested by a computer lab technician for the Lamont Elementary School District. A lawsuit was recently filed against a former Highland High School assistant principal who allegedly sexually abused a 16-year-old male student in 2009. And a McFarland High School basketball coach was arrested on suspicion of sexual misconduct in October after a male student came forward to the Kern County Sheriff’s Office; the coach had allegedly sent inappropriate text messages to the student, promising him a spot on the school varsity team in exchange for sexual favors.

Matt Clark, who has represented several victims of sexual abuse and misconduct, told local media he has seen these types of cases all too often.

“I don’t think people realize the damage they do to these young adolescents when an adult gets into a relationship with them. It haunts them years and years later,” Clark told The Bakersfield Californian. “Victims don’t necessarily want to come forward. I think they’re in a tough position.”

Social media and text messaging have played big roles both in allowing such relationships to start; they also help prove that misconduct has actually taken place.

“It gives the sexual predators the means to make contact and to groom their prey,” Clark said. “However, it’s also actual documentary evidence that a school employee sent inappropriate messages or material to a minor. Before we had that technology it was just verbalization, which was difficult to prove.”

Several times a year, Clark speaks at the Kern High School District “Coaches Clinic,” which trains school employees on various legal issues to watch out for.

“One of the rules that I give to the coaches during the training is do not text message a student one on one,” Clark said on KGET-17 News. “There should never be a situation where you are text messaging a student one on one.”

Clark said that while some predators believe deleting their correspondence with students will protect them from being caught, that is not the case.

“If you put something in a text message, it’s saved forever, even if you delete them,” Clark said. “If you’re having inappropriate contact with a student and you don’t know that, that’s really playing with fire.”

If you or someone you know is sexually abused 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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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.

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MEDIA COVERAGE

Chain | Cohn | Stiles takes part in Kern High School District ‘Principal Partners’ Day’

October 9, 2014 | 9:47 am


Each year, the Kern High School District hosts an half-day open house at all 20 district campuses, aimed at giving more than 200 local business, government and education representatives a sneak peek into campus life.

It’s called “Principal Partners’ Day,” and the Bakersfield personal injury law firm Chain | Cohn | Stiles was happy to take part in the event on Wednesday, Oct. 8.

“Our Principal Partners’ Day program is a perfect opportunity to get a firsthand look at how the District’s many ‘win-win partnerships’ benefit both our students and our community,” said KHSD Superintendent Bryon Schaefer on the district website.

The open house provides an in-depth look at each campus’ programs and services, academic and extracurricular. For example, at Ridgeview High School, participants witnessed the school’s band and color guard in action, the district’s program for the blind and visually impaired (headquartered at Ridgeview High), an art class, a biology class, a history class and much more. Guests get to meet and interact with teachers, students and other school officials. The school’s Associated Student Body representatives provide the tours.

The event is sponsored by the Greater Bakersfield Chamber of Commerce and the Kern County Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. Chain | Cohn | Stiles is a member of both of these organizations.

The day finishes with a lunch, bringing all participants and school representatives together, at Doubletree Hotel in Bakersfield.

For Chain | Cohn | Stiles, taking part in Principal Partners Day is only natural. The law firm prides itself on being locally founded, and its attorneys and staff have deep local roots. In fact, all of the attorneys have connections to local schools, and regularly assist and volunteer for local high school programs. For example:

  • Managing partner David Cohn graduated from West High School in KHSD, and then attended Bakersfield College before transferring to the University of Southern California, followed by Southwestern Law School.
  • Partner David Stiles graduated from Bakersfield High School in KHSD.
  • Partner Matthew Clark graduated from Garces Memorial High School in Bakersfield. He has volunteered in years past in coaching Mock Trial teams.
  • Partner James Yoro also graduated from Garces Memorial High School in Bakersfield.
  • Associate Chad Boyles graduated from Highland High School in KHSD, in northeast Bakersfield.

Chain | Cohn | Stiles would like to thank the Kern High School District and campus officials for opening its doors to the Bakersfield community.