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.”
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.
- North High employee suspected of sexual contact with multiple students (The Bakersfield Californian – Feb. 20, 2019) (online version here)
- North High School employee charged with sexual misconduct involving students (KGET-17, NBC – Feb. 20, 2019) (online version here)