August 19, 2016
A former student who fathered a child with a onetime Redlands schoolteacher convicted of having sex with him and two other students will receive a $6-million settlement from the school district, officials said Friday.
Vince Finaldi, an attorney for the former high school student, said the egregious conduct of Redlands Unified School administrators in the case warranted what may be one of the largest single-victim sex abuse settlements by a public agency.
“The size of this settlement represents the gravity of the damage done to this young victim and his family and it also highlights the extreme malfeasance and neglect by school officials who turned a blind eye to the criminal conduct of a teacher and failed to protect a student,” Finaldi said.
Laura Whitehurst, 29, was arrested in July 2013 and charged with 41 felony counts of unlawful sex acts that could have meant up to 29 years in prison. She pleaded guilty to four counts of unlawful sexual intercourse and two counts of oral copulation with a person under 18 involving three boys while teaching at Citrus Valley and Redlands high schools.
As part of a plea bargain, she was sentenced to a year in jail and released after six months. She remains on probation and is required to register as a sex offender. She shares custody of the child with the former student, who is now 21, according to his attorneys.
In the lawsuit, attorneys for the former student alleged that school officials knew of his relationship with Whitehurst and failed to warn his family. The suit also claimed that a teaching colleague of Whitehurst’s was aware of the relationship and that school officials even questioned Whitehurst and the student when she became pregnant.
School district officials said they were admitting no wrongdoing by settling the lawsuit and blamed Whitehurst alone.
District spokesman Tom DeLapp said the district is “not pleased with this outcome” but settled “this tragic case once and for all so we can move forward.”
“We felt there could be serious damage to the reputation of a very fine school district if the plaintiff’s lawyers were allowed to drag the district and its employees through the mud all over again,” DeLapp said. “In the long run, $6 million is high, but it could have been much higher if this had been left to an empathetic jury in another city looking past the facts to find a financial scapegoat for the unprofessional, criminal actions of one individual.”
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