Ten former students at Liberty Elementary School who were allegedly sexually assaulted by Fernando Figueroa, the school’s former technical adviser, will receive a $13.7 million settlement from the Riverside Unified School District, the victims’ attorneys said on Tuesday April 19th.
The victims were between 7 and 11 years old at the time of the alleged abuse.
Police arrested Figueroa in February 2017 and he was indicted by a grand jury eight months later. As part of a plea agreement, Figueroa admitted that he “committed lewd and lascivious acts to 11 separate victims between 2014 and February 8, 2017,” attorneys said. On December 13, 2019, he was sentenced to 20 years of life imprisonment.
Riverside Unified officials Wednesday did not respond to phone calls and emails seeking comment on the settlement.
Attorneys from the Irvine-based law firm Manly, Stewart & Finaldi, representing the victims, said in a statement Wednesday that civil lawsuits against the Riverside Unified School District say several staff members were employed as early as the 2014-2015 school year and was responded to by one’s complaints victim about Figueroa’s inappropriate touching. The child’s mother also contacted the principal to complain, but the complaint claims that nothing was done.
“Testimony at the civil trial has also revealed that Figueroa was often seen hugging children and was found alone with children behind closed doors in classrooms with the lights off,” the statement said. “Figueroa was still allowed unrestricted access for children and the abuse continued for years.”
It also alleges that Riverside Unified failed to conduct an adequate background check on Figueroa, who was accused of sexual misconduct with a family member, before the county hired him.
Saul Wolf, an attorney for the victims, said Riverside Unified’s inaction was a “textbook example” of a district failing to meet its obligations to protect students.
“It is crystal clear that the corrupt culture at the highest levels of the Riverside Unified School District and Liberty Elementary School allowed a serial predator to run amok at an elementary school and harass vulnerable children at will,” Wolf said. “I sincerely hope that the amount of this settlement will compel the Riverside Unified School District to make protecting its students from sexual predators a priority and to provide some measure of justice and healing to Fernando Figueroa’s victims.”
https://www.mercurynews.com/2022/04/20/riverside-unified-settles-sex-abuse-lawsuit-with-10-children-for-13-7-million/ California school district settles sex abuse lawsuit involving 10 elementary school children for $13.7 million