A jury trial is underway this week to determine whether or not the San Francisco Unified School District is responsible for damages incurred during an alleged sexual assault between students while apparently left unattended in the principal’s office at Bessie Carmichael Elementary School in 2013.
The complaint for damages for sexual abuse and negligence filed by Attorney Richard J. Simons on the behalf of a juvenile plaintiff and his guardian in September 2013, describes the incident that occurred on April 3, 2013 at the elementary school in the city’s South of Market neighborhood.
The complaint alleges that the plaintiff, a juvenile boy, was sexually assaulted by another student and physically forced to perform sexual acts in the principal’s office during school hours.
The suit alleges that the school’s principal, Lawrence Gotanco and other SFUSD employees, failed to supervise the minors involved and failed to provide security and protection to the alleged victim.
The perpetrator of the alleged sexual assault was apparently known to the principal to constitute a risk to other students, including the plaintiff, the complaint states.
Due to the alleged abuse, the complaint states that the minor has suffered emotional and mental distress and is expected to continue to incur costs for counseling.
The suit seeks more than $25,000 in damages to pay for the student’s continued counseling.
A court document filed by the defense on Monday of this week clearly reveals the names of the three juveniles, including the plaintiffs, involved in the case and describes the incident as being deemed, during the police investigation, as consensual in nature.
The document filed by Attorney Kevin Gilbert for the defense on Monday, states that the incident on April 3, 2013 arose after the three students were sent to the principal’s office for misbehaving in class.
Principal Gotanco was dealing with the children when he was called out of his office to deal with an emergency involving a student physically attacking a member of the staff, according to the defense.
While the principal was gone for less than 10 minutes, the plaintiff claims he was offered $1 to perform a sexual act on another student as a “dare,” according to the defense.
The plaintiff allegedly accepted the dollar and then performed the sexual act, according to the defense.
The third student in the principal’s office allegedly recorded video of the sexual act between the two boys. That video was then played for other students at an after-school program before being deleted later that same day, the defense maintains.
Principal Gotanco didn’t learn of what allegedly happened in his office until the next day, when the plaintiff’s father contacted him.
Upon learning of the incident, the principal notified the San Francisco Police Department and an investigation was launched, resulting in no formal criminal charges filed.
The defense also calls in to question the credibility of the minor plaintiff, according to court documents.
According to the defense, the plaintiff maintains he was the victim of bullying on April 3, 2013 and that such bullying led to him performing a sexual act on another boy.
The defense, however, argues that the plaintiff has a “long history of other incidents” in which he was deemed to have behaved dishonestly or been a bully himself.