Former Citrus Valley High teacher Laura Whitehurst awaits a hearing in 2013 in Superior Court in San Bernardino. Laura Whitehurst was convicted of having sex with several students who attended the Redlands school. She had a baby with one of the students. (Photo by Kurt Miller, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

By Joe Nelson | jnelson@scng.com and Scott Schwebke | sschwebke@scng.com | San Bernardino Sun
Published: June 22, 2018 at 2:56 pm | Updated: June 22, 2018 at 8:03 pm

Joshua Polo earned a visit to the vice principal’s office at Redlands High School when, in a heated squabble with English teacher Laura Whitehurst, he called her a “whore.”

It was 2007, five years before Whitehurst struck up a sexual relationship with a student that produced a daughter, unwelcome national headlines and a lasting black eye on the Redlands Unified School District.

When he met with Vice Principal Michael Munoz that day, Polo told him Whitehurst was having sex with students. He was in a position to know. His best friend was having an affair with the teacher, who was just 22 years old and in her first year teaching.

“They just kind of said yeah, okay, whatever. They just thought I was talking out my ass,” Polo said in a February 2016 deposition, included among nearly 1,900 pages of documents and more than 11 hours of recorded police interviews obtained by the Southern California News Group.

Attorneys representing former students in eight sex abuse lawsuits against the school district say the police reports, sworn depositions, internal documents and recordings support allegations of a more than decadelong cover-up of sex abuse at the school district.

In Polo’s case, he said Munoz did not acknowledge his allegation against Whitehurst and the subject was never discussed further with him.

The conversation would be among the earliest warning signs about Whitehurst, but certainly not the last. All went unreported by Redlands Unified for years, until the mother of the boy who fathered Whitehurst’s baby complained to then-Citrus High School Principal Bernie Cavanagh.

Not until that moment – on July 1, 2013 – did any Redlands Unified official or teacher alert authorities as required by California’s so-called mandated reporter law. Failure to report is a misdemeanor and carries a sentence of up to six months in jail.

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