By Joe Nelson | jnelson@scng.com | San Bernardino Sun
Published: January 16, 2018 at 7:00 am | Updated: January 16, 2018 at 6:36 pm

Victims of former Redlands High School teacher and convicted sex offender Kevin Kirkland were “negligent” and partly to blame for what happened to them, the Redlands Unified School District said in a court document.

“At the time of the incidents . . . the plaintiffs were negligent or at fault and failed to use that degree of care and caution which a reasonably prudent person would have used under the same or similar circumstances,” school district attorney Stephen Harber wrote in his answer to an amended lawsuit in the case.

That lawsuit consolidated three lawsuits totaling six plaintiffs into one, said attorney Morgan Stewart, who is representing Kirkland’s victims in the litigation.

All of Kirkland’s victims were special needs students, Stewart said.

The school district maintained any damages it may face should be reduced due to the victims’ own culpability in their abuse.

Harber also said in his Dec. 28 filing that the plaintiffs “could have mitigated the amount of damages, if any there were, but plaintiffs failed and refused, and continue to fail and refuse to exercise a reasonable effort to mitigate damages . . . .”

Stewart called the school district’s assertions “one more example of a long pattern of victim blaming and attempts to shame those who speak out about Redlands Unified School District.”

“To call vulnerable young girls ‘at fault’ and ‘negligent’ when they are the victims of abuse is amongst the most base and despicable behavior by individuals who are entrusted with the safety of those in society that need the protection the most,” Stewart said in a press release.

He said the school district’s position violates a longstanding statute that consent cannot be a defense when an adult holds a position of authority over a minor, such as in a teacher-student relationship.

In a statement Monday, school district spokesman Tom DeLapp called Stewart’s claims against the district “outrageous and inflammatory” and misrepresented the district’s position “for the sake of a sound bite and sensationalized headline.”

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