Riverside Unified School District: Sexual Abuse and School Negligence

It’s a case no parent ever wants to hear about; sexual assault against a student by a teacher. So vile in its intent, so appalling in its actions, it’s something that every school and district hopes never happens on their grounds. But unfortunately, it has happened far too often, and in the aftermath school officials are left to figure out what went wrong while parents look for someone to blame.

Two years ago, Andrea Cardosa, an administrator for Alhambra High School in Val Verde Unified School District, was put in prison for ten years for her molestation of two students over the span of 12 years, from 1998-2010. This was based on her confession in a video to Jamie Carillo, a student whom she assaulted while a teacher at Chemawa Middle School in Riverside Unified School District. Negligence suits were filed against both school districts.

Riverside Unified School District Profile

Serving the city of Riverside as well as the unincorporated areas of Woodcrest and Highgrove, Riverside USD has approximately 42,000 students across 48 elementary, middle and high schools. Their enrollment is nearly two-thirds Hispanic, and 17 percent of students are learning English.

When it comes sexual abuse against a child, it can take a long time for the acts to come to public light. This is because the child won’t report the atrocity right away, and this is due to many factors, such as manipulation by the abuser, fear of classmate opinion, or repressing the memory. California, along with 28 other states, have legislation in place specifically for this reason that removes statute of limitations in the case of newly discovered abuse against a child. These provisions help ensure that abusers are brought to justice.

What is the Statute of Limitations in Sexual Abuse Cases?

The laws in these circumstances vary by state, and in California, different regulations apply to certain circumstances. If seeking a civil suit for sexual abuse, the SOL is eight years. However, if one is looking to criminally prosecute, it’s six years. In the case of child molestation or sexual abuse, there is essentially no SOL, as the abused can prosecute the abuser within one year after telling police. There is also a provision which states that those who were aware of the conduct but didn’t do enough to stop it can also be sued. This is how the school districts can be sued for negligence.

In terms of school districts being held liable, California has guidelines in place for the identification and reporting of child abuse. The law only requires that someone have a “reasonable suspicion.” They did not have to witness it, nor do they have to have definitive proof that abuse took place. This is the basis of Jamie’s lawsuit against Riverside, as she alleges they had knowledge of Cardosa’s actions yet failed to report them. It’s unclear what the outcome of this lawsuit will be, but the judge did rule that the case will move forward in its proceedings, despite the school’s attorney’s attempts to remove liability.

This is an example of a case against the Riverside Unified School District, but is only a sliver of the potential liability and negligence issues that could be brought forth against a school. These are some of the possible cases:

If any of these unfortunate and tragic situations happen to your child, you’ll need attorneys who are prepared to fight for justice on your behalf. Our experienced Riverside Unified School District negligence attorneys have handled these types of cases before, and will hold schools liable for negligence. In the event of an injury, call Panish | Shea | Ravipudi LLP or fill out our contact form for a free and confidential case evaluation.