Moms for Liberty Santa Clara County

Santa Clara County School Districts' Sexual Abuse Legal Issues

Per a September 11 2023 San Francisco Chronicle article entitled These 51 Bay Area schools face sexual abuse lawsuits, a number of Bay Area schools are now facing sexual abuse lawsuits. Here we highlight the details provided for those schools here in Santa Clara County.

Alum Rock Elementary School District

William R. Rogers Elementary School

Three women in their late 50s are suing Alum Rock Union Elementary School District over alleged abuse by their first-grade teacher, Floyd Piper, at William R. Rogers Elementary School. In their lawsuit, they say the district "had reason to know" that the teacher was grooming students. A concerned parent met with the vice principal in 1972, around the time one of the students says she was abused, and complained that the teacher had students sit on his lap and that he touched girls’ private parts, the suit states. After the meeting, the parent was never contacted by police. The women believe the district didn’t report the complaint to police and "took no corrective action in response."

A fourth woman filed a separate lawsuit in Santa Clara Superior Court alleging the same teacher molested her when she was a 7-year-old first grader. She says that in 1972 she told her parents of the abuse, who then reported it to school administrators, but that they didn’t act.

Lauren Cerri, a lawyer representing the three women, said she only learned about the separate lawsuit by the fourth woman when contacted by the Chronicle.

Superintendent Hilaria Bauer declined to comment on pending litigation. The district has denied the claims in the first lawsuit in court, but has not yet filed an answer to the other lawsuit.

Los Gatos-Saratoga Union High School District

Los Gatos High School

A woman identified in court as P.L. alleges administrators at her school district acted with negligence by not responding appropriately when her teacher Mark Bradburn sexually assaulted her in the 1980s.

In her lawsuit, she claims another teacher saw them holding hands, which should have been reported and investigated. Her lawsuit describes Bradburn, who led a student group that played Dungeons and Dragons, as "charismatic, hippy, and cool," and beloved by students because he "made them feel both seen and mature." She alleges the teacher groomed her. He would kiss her in his classroom and engage in oral sex in more secluded locations, and he confessed to her that he had also had a sexual relationship with another student, according to the suit.

The district has argued in court that the law under which P.L. is suing is unconstitutional.

Tanya De La Cruz, a spokesperson for the district, declined to comment on pending litigation.

Santa Clara Unified/Mountain View Whisman School District

Pomeroy Elementary School and Curtis Junior High School in Santa Clara, Graham Junior High School in Mountain View

Five men are suing two Bay Area school districts, alleging administrators’ negligence allowed a group of employees to run a child pornography ring in the early 1970s that preyed on young boys.

The men, all identified by John Roe pseudonyms to protect their identities, allege that Mountain View Whisman School District and Santa Clara Unified School District knew or should have known about the defendants' "propensities" but still hired them and then inadequately supervised them. The districts had no "system or procedure for investigating and supervising personnel to prevent pre-sexual grooming and/or sexual harassment, molestation and abuse of children," according to the lawsuit.

The suit further alleges the districts failed to investigate or respond to complaints that their employees molested and sexually assaulted children; failed in their duty as mandated reporters of child abuse and intentionally concealed the abuse to "avoid scandal" and investigation by law enforcement.

The lawsuit names four men implicated in operating the child sex and photography ring. All four were indicted in 1974 and charged with numerous crimes, including lewd and lascivious conduct with children, the Chronicle reported at the time. They include Nathaniel McCray, a former sex education teacher at Graham Junior High School in Mountain View and Roger Ray Murray, who worked as a photographer at Pomeroy Elementary School and Curtis Junior High School in Santa Clara, according to the lawsuit.

The John Roes all say they were abused when they were about 14 while they were students at the schools. They allege they have suffered emotional distress, depression, guilt and shame, and have made suicide attempts as a result of the abuse. They are suing for damages and medical expenses for psychiatric care.

Shelly Hausman, a spokesperson for Mountain View Whisman School District, declined to comment on pending litigation. In court filings, the district is fighting to dismiss the case. A spokesperson for Santa Clara Unified School District did not respond to requests for comment.

Cupertino Union

Sedgwick Elementary School and Garden Gate Elementary School

Two men have filed separate lawsuits against Cupertino Union School District alleging abuse by the same special education teacher, George Peter Rooke.

One of the men says he was molested and raped by Rooke in the mid-1970s over two years. He alleges in his lawsuit that he reported the abuse to the head of the special education department at Garden Gate Elementary School, but that the teacher continued to assault him. He says he now suffers from anxiety, depression, guilt and shame, and is suing the district for medical expenses and lost income capacity. He alleges the school failed to inform his parents about the abuse and had no system in place to supervise workers.

A second man says he was raped by Rooke when he was about 11 or 12 during the 1974-75 school year at a different school in the district, Sedgwick Elementary School. He says he was abused more than 10 times, including a violent rape on a school field trip, and that Rooke threatened to kill his family if he told anyone. He alleges school staff received prior complaints about the teacher and should have been suspicious of the time he spent alone with students, but failed to investigate. The man says he has suffered "severe emotional distress, humiliation, embarrassment and shame."

In his suit, the second man says Rooke was convicted in 1977 of four counts of lewd and lascivious acts with 16 children and in 1983 for oral sex with a child under 14, before being deported to England.

Erin Lindsey, a spokesperson for Cupertino Union, said the district would not comment on the cases. The district is fighting one of the lawsuits in court, and has argued in legal filings that it is not liable for any harm to the former student. The district does not yet appear to have been served in the other case.

Berryessa Union

Sierramont Middle School

Three men allege they were molested by a middle school science teacher and track coach in the 1990s and early 2000s at Sierramont Middle School. They say the teacher/coach, Ronald Gardner, groomed male students by spending time alone with them before and after school, driving students in his car to and from school and making inappropriate comments to them.

One of the men, John Doe 1, alleges Gardner would isolate him after class and lock or block the door to his classroom, where he would rape him. At one point a janitor came into the room when the two were alone and Gardner was almost caught, so he allegedly started putting a couch in front of the door with a note that it should not be opened because a bird or lizard was loose.

"Despite the oddity of such a note on a repeated basis, district employees did not question these actions," the lawsuit states.

Gardner should have been more closely supervised than a regular teacher, according to the suit, because he had an emergency teaching permit that required the district to appoint an experienced teacher to guide, supervise and assist him.

Around October 1999, a parent reported to the Sierramont principal that Gardner was telling dirty jokes to male students in class. The principal investigated and found that Gardner had told a male student his arm looked buff because he was masturbating, which was heard by several male students; the only action the principal took was a written reprimand, the lawsuit alleges.

In December 2001, Gardner received an excellence in teaching award from the district’s superintendent.

A secretary at the school once saw him spank a male student on his bare butt, but the incident was never reported to police, the lawsuit alleges.

In January 2003, a parent reported to school administrators that Gardner had made sexual comments to his son and had lifted him off the ground by his underwear. According to the lawsuit, the principal and vice principal investigated and found that Gardner had taken a boy -- identified as John Doe 2 in court -- into a storage room in his classroom, had Doe 2 measure his penis with a ruler, paid him $5 to watch him urinate and then grabbed the boy’s testicles while wrestling with him.

Records from the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing indicate Gardner’s credential was revoked the following year. He is currently listed as an inmate in Santa Clara County jail and has pled guilty to 12 charges related to sexual abuse of children between 1997 and 2003, including some of the men who are suing him in civil court, said Brian King, the Santa Clara deputy district attorney handling the case. He is scheduled to be formally sentenced in October, King said, and stands to face 22 years in prison under a negotiated plea agreement.

Berryessa Union School District is fighting the civil allegations in court, and argues in legal filings it’s not liable for any abuse the former students suffered. Superintendent Roxane Fuentes did not respond to messages seeking comment. Gardner’s criminal defense attorney did not respond to a request for comment.

Milpitas Unified

Samuel Ayer High School

A man alleges he was assaulted by a teacher named William Martin, who had a reputation for being flirtatious and touchy with students, when he was 14 or 15 and a student at now-closed Samuel Ayer High School in Milpitas in 1973. In his lawsuit, the man identified as John Doe G.B. alleges the teacher groomed him by complimenting him, spending time alone with him, flirting with him and convincing G.B. to trust him as a mentor.

One day, the teacher held G.B. back in class and fondled his genitals, according to the lawsuit. The teacher threatened that G.B. would get in serious trouble if he told, and he allegedly assaulted G.B. several more times that year.

G.B. believes the teacher abused other students, and that staff at the high school received prior complaints about the teacher’s behavior, according to the lawsuit, which alleges district staff members violated their duty under California’s mandated reporter laws.

The district has not yet been served with the lawsuit, according to court records.

Scott Forstner, a spokesperson for the district, declined to comment on the case, and said the district no longer has copies of the policies that would have been in place at the time of the alleged assault. "We take allegations of sexual misconduct very seriously, so they are referred to law enforcement for investigation," Forstner wrote in an email.

Fremont Union

Lynbrook High School

A former Lynbrook High School student says she was assaulted by her science teacher Donald Lindin in the mid-1970s. She was the youngest student in her class after skipping two grades, and alleges Lindin, who was in his 40s, took advantage of her naivete to groom her. He convinced her one day, while she was waiting to be picked up by her mother after school, to let him drive her home, according to her lawsuit. Once they were alone in the car together, he assaulted her by "forcing her to masturbate him," she alleges, and told her to keep it a secret.

She says staff at the high school received "complaints and warnings from parents and staff" that the teacher flirted with and was overly close to students, but administrators failed to look into the matter. She alleges that an investigation was only launched later, after the school received more complaints, and that the teacher was ultimately criminally charged and that his teaching credentials were revoked.

Rachel Zlotziver, a spokesperson for the district, said the district didn’t know about the case before the Chronicle reached out. She said the district doesn’t have information about the identity of the woman suing or the facts surrounding her allegations, but would investigate. It is not clear if Lindin has been served with the lawsuit.

East Side Union High School District

William C. Overfelt High School

A woman identified in court as Jane Roe says a teacher, Daniel Runyon, sexually assaulted her in his classroom and on a school field trip during the 1999-2000 school year, when Roe was a senior. Her complaint alleges the teacher groomed girls openly on campus, including by hugging them, transporting them in his personal vehicle, giving them gifts and writing them love letters. In her lawsuit, she alleges Runyon would spend time with her multiple times per week in his locked classroom, and that another teacher witnessed them together in his classroom without other adults or students, but took no action in response.

In court, the district and Runyon have denied Roe’s allegations. East Side Union Superintendent Glenn Vander Zee did not respond to requests for comment.

San Jose Unified

A spokesperson for San Jose Unified did not respond to a request for comment on the lawsuits filed against the district.

Bret Harte Middle School

A woman identified in court as Jennifer Doe 808 is suing San Jose Unified, alleging she was assaulted by her P.E. teacher Albert Shehee at Bret Harte Middle School in the 1970s.

Willow Glen High School

A woman identified in court at Jane Doe says she was assaulted by a school maintenance worker when she was a 14-year-old ninth grader in 2006 at Willow Glen High School. She alleges administrators and teachers were told of prior misconduct by the maintenance worker, including that he would spend time alone with students and that he would be intoxicated during work hours, both before and after his abuse of Doe, but that the district "took no action." She alleges he assaulted her outside a bathroom by groping her and taking off his pants, trying to make her touch his penis.

In court filings, the district has denied Jane Doe's allegations.

Unnamed San Jose middle school

Two former San Jose middle school students are suing their former district, alleging that a school librarian who ran the school’s audio-visual club molested them. They allege the librarian took them to his home on separate occasions and molested them and that the librarian is now a registered sex offender. Both former students are now in their 60s.

The district they are suing has not yet been named in court filings.

Unnamed Santa Clara school district

A man identified in court as A.O. says a teacher abused him when he was an 11-year-old student in Santa Clara. He alleges the teacher began showering him with attention and rubbing his shoulders before making A.O. stay in his classroom during recess and forcing him to perform oral sex. The lawsuit claims the teacher repeated this behavior several times, including in the school restroom. A.O. alleges the district should have known about the teacher’s behavior, but failed to monitor him.

The district has not yet been identified in court.