Redlands Unified to pay $2.25 million stemming from decade-old sexual abuse case

Redlands Unified to pay $2.25 million stemming from decade-old sexual abuse case
Photo source: Shutters

Redlands Unified School District will pay $2.25 million to settle the latest lawsuit against former teacher and coach Laura Whitehurst.

In 2013, the former English teacher and soccer coach pleaded guilty to 6 felony counts of unlawful sex with three former students.

In the 2021 lawsuit, the former student alleged he was preyed upon and sexually abused at Redlands High School by Whitehurst in 2007 and 2008 when he was 14, the Southern California News Group (SCNG) reported Sunday.

According to a police report, Whitehurst admitted she had sex with the youth 10 to 15 times in her classroom and at her apartment.

Previous lawsuit and criminal charges

In August 2016, the district agreed to pay $6 million to another former student who impregnated Whitehurst when he was 16.

As part of the plea deal, Whitehurst was sentenced to a year in jail but served only six months and is now a registered sex offender.

Redlands Unified has paid $8.25 million to Whitehurst's victims.

RUSD response

Redlands Unified is aware of the settlement but unable to comment on specifics due to confidentiality agreements, according to an emailed statement from Redlands Unified spokesperson Christine Stephens.

Superintendent Juan Cabral, who joined as Superintendent in July 2023, also responded to the settlement news.

"As Superintendent of Redlands Unified School District, I'm committed to ensure the safety and well-being of all of our students and staff. We actively engage with parents/guardians, students, and staff to keep them informed about safety measures, policies, and developments within the district."

Cabral also shared that the District continually works to enhance policies, procedures, and protocols.

"We have implemented several protocols, some of which are unique and hopefully become industry-standard across public education. These protocols have been implemented with input from multiple sources, including a nationally recognized authority on child sexual abuse and prevention techniques. We will continue to regularly assess our policies, systems, and protocols and adjust accordingly. We are always open to constructive criticism, as no system can ever be deemed perfect."

In 2018, Redlands Unified adopted a new protocol called ACT NOW to stop sexual abuse in the district.

Three years later, the San Bernardino County Civil Grand Jury followed up to investigate how effectively the program was being implemented. The Grant Jury was unsatisfied with what they found in 2021 and during a later report in 2022.

This past spring, RUSD gained the national spotlight at the center of the sexual abuse crisis impacting American schools. A CBS Investigates documentary highlighted Redlands as a hotspot for sexual abuse cases.

The latest settlement adds to the more than $41 million RUSD has paid out in lawsuits by former students stemming from allegations of sexual abuse occurring between 1999 - 2016, according to the CBS report.

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