By Joe Nelson | jnelson@scng.com and Scott Schwebke | sschwebke@scng.com | San Bernardino Sun
Published: June 22, 2018 at 3:08 pm | Updated: June 22, 2018 at 7:49 pm

A top Redlands Unified School District official attempted to destroy evidence and obstructed the 2013 criminal investigation of a former teacher convicted of sexually abusing students, according to sworn statements and police reports supporting allegations in eight pending lawsuits against the district.

Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources Sabine Robertson-Phillips was accused by two police detectives of deleting files on her office computer during July 3, 2013, police raids at school district offices and Citrus Valley High School as part of the criminal investigation of teacher Laura Whitehurst.

Additionally, they claimed Robertson-Phillips advised school district staff not to cooperate with police and to lawyer up if approached by the detectives.

The statements of Detectives Dominic Povero and Natasha Crawford are among nearly 1,900 pages of documents and more than 11 hours of recorded police interviews obtained by the Southern California News Group that attorneys say reveal a more than decadelong pattern of covering up sex abuse allegations within the district.

The newly uncovered evidence was filed in connection with a $6 million settlement between the school district and a former student who fathered Whitehurst’s child. That civil case prompted more victims to come forward alleging they were sexually abused by Redlands Unified teachers, including Redlands High special education teacher and golf coach Kevin Patrick Kirkland. Kirkland pleaded guilty last year to molesting four female students in 2015 and 2016.

Attorney Morgan Stewart, who is representing former students in current sex abuse lawsuits against Kirkland and two other teachers, believes Robertson-Phillips is the core of the problem.

“As long as she’s there, it’s going to continue, I have no doubt,” said Stewart, whose firm also represented Whitehurst’s victim in his litigation. “You would think in a small school district, they could control it a lot better, but not if, for lack of a better word, there’s a disease at the top.”

Robertson-Phillips denies the allegations and said she has dedicated her career to ensuring students receive the best education possible in a safe and healthy environment.

“I have a proven track record of working collaboratively with the police on cases throughout my tenure as assistant superintendent,” she said in an email. “I have always viewed law enforcement as partners and have always cooperated to resolve situations for the benefit of our students. I have never destroyed evidence or in any way interfered with a police investigation.”

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