Alleged victims of a former middle school teacher have reached an $11 million settlement with a San Bernardino County school district.
Sean Lopez, formerly employed by Clement Middle School in Redlands, was convicted in 2005 for molesting three male minors between 1999 and 2001. He was sentenced to nearly 75 years in prison. One of those victims reportedly died in 2012 due to the alleged "horrific abuse" he suffered at Lopez's hands, according to family.
A fourth alleged victim came forward in February of last year, filing a lawsuit against Redlands Unified Schoool District.
That lawsuit was filed in response to a law effective in January of 2020, which created a three-year window in California's statute of limitations for victims of childhood sexual abuse.
Lopez's alleged victims were subsequently able to pursue claims against the school district they previously thought had long expired.
Plaintiffs alleged Redlands Unified administrators received complaints that Lopez met with young male students in his classroom during and after school hours and engaged in "graphic discussions about pornography and sex," according to a statement published by Manly Stewart Finaldi, the law firm representing the plaintiffs.
The district failed to adequately investigate those complaints, allowing Lopez to carry out his scheme of abuse, the suit alleged.
On Wednesday, the district agreed to pay out $11 million to Lopez's alleged victims.
"These kids really looked at this as they'd run out of an opportunity to pursue any claims until that statute went into place," plaintiffs' attorney Morgan Stewart told KNX. "That's really what this statute was designed to do, to help those kids who have been suffering. And these guys really did suffer for twenty years."
The suit arising out Lopez's conduct is one of many Redlands Unified has faced around allegations of sexual misconduct by teachers. In 2018, Stewart's firm won a settlement on behalf of the families of the alleged victims of a former Redlands High School drama teacher, Joel Koonce, for $8.5 million.
Stewart has called for independent investigations of the district by both state and federal authorities. In 2018, California officials launched a probe of the Redlands Unified administration.
In May, a San Bernardino County grand jury announced it was soliciting information from parents of students in Redalnds regarding past or present concerns of suspected inappropriate contact between students and staff. Collection of those statements was completed in June.
It has not yet been announced what the findings of that solicitation were, or what the grand jury intended to do with the information.
This is a developing story. KNX will update with additional information as it is received.