News investigation highlights cost of school employee ‘administrative leave’ in Chain | Cohn | Clark civil lawsuits
In the 2018-2019 school year, the Kern High School District had five employees who faced allegations involving sexually inappropriate behavior, including alleged suspects in Chain | Cohn | Clark civil lawsuits. Eyewitness News, in an investigation, found that those employees, put on administrative leave while they were being investigated for sex crimes, earned a combined $162,000.
Once you factor in the cost of substitute teachers and legal fees, roughly $250,000 of taxpayer money was spent on these educators who were not educating anyone, the KBAK-29 Eyewitness News investigation found.
“As a taxpayer, I’m offended,” said David Cohn in an interview with Eyewitness News. Cohn is the managing partner at Chain | Cohn | Clark and attorney representing four of the eight families who have filed claims against Edwin Rodriguez and the high school district. “These serious allegations have been made against him with multiple young women. Once he’s arrested why can’t the district judge just fire him at that point?”
Kern County Sheriff’s Office arrested Edwin Rodriguez on suspicion of lewd and lascivious acts with minors 14 to 15 years old, exhibiting harmful matter to a minor, annoying a child under 18 and false imprisonment. In February, local media reported 10 people came forward to investigators alleging inappropriate physical contact and other unwanted interaction by Rodriguez while he worked as an athletic equipment manager at North High School.
According to the victims, Rodriguez would give students sodas and candy, befriend them on the social media, and send them sexually explicit photos and videos, among other sexual misconduct that took place over several years. One of the women is 19 years old, and the abuse first occurred when she was a sophomore in high school. In one instance, Rodriguez sent a photo on Snapchat to two of the girls that showed him wearing shorts and a tank top and grabbing his penis. A number of text messages sent by Rodriguez to the girls told them he thought they were “hot” or commented on various parts of their body he found attractive. Rodriguez “groomed” the victims, Chain | Cohn | Clark personal injury attorney David Cohn
Under Education Code 44939, schools can suspend school employees without pay in the case of a serious, immoral or criminal conduct, and have an expedited hearing in 60 days. In the case of Rodriguez, KHSD did not immediately fire or remove his pay, and the investigation took much longer than 60 days. The high school district said in a statement during that time that they “fully cooperated with the Kern County Sheriff’s Office as it investigated allegations against Edwin Rodriguez. KHSD placed Edwin Rodriguez on an unpaid leave immediately after he was charged with a mandatory leave of absence offense as required by Education Code.”
In the case of Edwin Rodriguez, he was placed on leave for 102 days starting in September 2018 over allegations of sexually assaulting as many as ten students at North High School. He was paid over $16,000 during that span, according to the news investigation. Rodriguez resigned in May 2019 and is facing 24 criminal charges.
Chain | Cohn | Clark attorneys and the parents of the victims advise other parents to talk to their children about boundaries with those authority.
“Take this opportunity to have a discussion with your teenager,” Cohn said. “Students should never have one-on-one conversations through social media or text messages with school personnel, coaches, or other adults in authority. And encourage them to speak up if someone in authority contacts them privately or crosses a line.”
What to do in a sexual abuse / assault case
Call for help: Always call the police, a rape hotline, or both following any form of sexual assault or abuse. The sooner you get in touch with someone, the sooner justice can be served.
See a doctor: Seek immediate medical care following a rape or sexual abuse. Hospitals often have specialists trained to help in these types of situations, and they often have someone on staff that can help with stress.
Contact at attorney: After you have taken all the aforementioned steps, contact a sexual assault and abuse lawyer.
CLAIM FILING MEDIA COVERAGE
- Nuevas alegaciones de conducta sexual inapropiada contra ex-empleado escolar (Telemundo Valle Central – March 7, 2019)
- More lawsuits filed in connection with North High employee accused of sexual contact with students (The Bakersfield Californian – March 6, 2019)
- Three more North High students sue equipment manager (KBAK-29, CBS – BakerfieldNow – March 6, 2019)
- Claim against North HS alleges school did not do enough to protect students from accused sex abuser (KGET-17, NBC – March 6, 2019)
- Lawsuit Alleges Kern High School District Staff ‘Conspired To Cover Up’ Sexual Assault Allegations (Valley Public Radio – March 8, 2019)
- Kern High School District Knew Staff Member Was Sex Abuser, Lawsuits Allege (Valley Public Radio – April 30, 2019)
CRIMINAL CASE MEDIA COVERAGE
- North High employee suspected of sexual contact with multiple students (The Bakersfield Californian – Feb. 20, 2019) (online version here)
- North High School employee charged with sexual misconduct involving students (KGET-17, NBC – Feb. 20, 2019) (online version here)
- Court docs detail allegations against North High equipment manager involving multiple students (KERO-23, ABC – Feb. 20, 2019)
- North High equipment manager arrested for lewd acts with a minor (KERO-23, ABC – Feb. 20, 2019)
- North High staff member accused of inappropriate sexual behavior, pleads not guilty (KGET-17, NBC – Feb. 21)
- Edwin Rodriguez pleads not guilty to charges of inappropriate contact with minors (The Bakersfield Californian – Feb. 21, 2019)
- North High athletic equipment manager resigns amid sexual misconduct allegations (The Bakersfield Californian – June 13, 2019)
- Preliminary hearing postponed two months for former North High equipment manager accused of engaging in sex acts with minors (KGET-17, NBC – July 16, 2020)
- Former North High athletic equipment manager to appear in court in October (The Bakersfield Californian – July 16, 2020)