The Belmont-Redwood Shores Elementary School District wants the lawsuit by a former student tossed, saying she waited so many years after being molested by a janitor to file a claim that key witnesses have either died, moved to parts unknown or left its employment.
“She’s 12 years too late,” said Tom DeLapp who is speaking on behalf of the district on this matter.
On Friday, the district filed a request for dismissal — known as a demurrer — in the case against it and several current and former employees including County Superintendent Anne Campbell. The demurrer argues a July 2013 claim against the district — a required precursor to a lawsuit — was not filed until after the six-month statute of limitations which it calculates as Nov. 29, 2001, if based on the date of the student’s alleged molestation and April 2012 if using reports of the prosecution. A hearing is set for May 6.
The suit brought by Roxanne Pedro, now an adult, contends that had the district acted on the information it had, janitor and coach Andre Edwards would not have assaulted her in 2001 or groped a student in 2010. The last act led to Edwards’ conviction for both incidents and, according to Pedro, unearthed new proof that the district and its employees knew of his inappropriate acts and comments toward students dating back a decade.
The district, however, contends Pedro did not file a claim within six months of the 2001 molestation, within six months of Edwards’ March 2011 arrest or within six months of her 2011 interview by Belmont police detectives in connection to his criminal case.
“She had multiple opportunities to file this claim and at every time chosen not to. She only came forward after Edwards pleaded no contest,” DeLapp said.
Pedro’s legal team said her suit is not about the molestation per se but the district’s failure to act. Attorney Marc Lewis said his client always knew Edwards’ attack was wrong but she only recently learned of the district’s role in it.
“The district is now essentially using their own cover-up to deny responsibility for their failure to protect Roxanne and other students. Their distortion of the facts and continued denial is disappointing, and we are confident it will not prevail in court,” Lewis said in a prepared statement.
The six-month statute is meant to protect “against overly stale claims like this one,” DeLapp said.
DeLapp said Pedro’s attorneys are sidestepping the six-month threshold by arguing she didn’t realize she had been wronged until 2013 after Edwards’ conviction but that assertion is wrong.
“No one had to tell Ms. Pedro, in 2013, that what Edwards did to her in 2001 was wrongful. She already knew which is why she complained to the principal immediately after Edwards wrongfully touched her,” the filed demurrer stated.
In the last 12 years since Pedro’s abuse, DeLapp said witnesses have moved, retired and died. For instance, former Ralston Middle School principal Lawrence Glendenning, who would have “undoubtedly” been a key witness to explain how the school supervised Edwards, has since died, according to DeLapp.
Pedro’s suit, filed in late February, claims that the district knew that Edwards committed at least eight separate incidents of sexual misconduct involving at least six students while employed but took “affirmative steps” to hide his history such as sealing a 1996 investigation and not contacting police.
When Pedro was 12 in May 2001, Edwards reportedly touched her inappropriately while she worked on a book report in his office. She told school authorities and police were alerted but charges were never filed because of questions over credibility. In 2010, he groped a student’s breast and buttocks, leading to his arrest and a revisit of Pedro’s allegations. He pleaded no contest to two counts of felony false imprisonment and one count of misdemeanor child annoyance in return for nine months jail to settle both cases.
In July 2013, Edwards, 55, was sentenced to nine months in jail plus sex offender treatment but not registration. He was originally charged with multiple counts of child molestation but settled the case by pleading no contest to two counts of felony false imprisonment and one misdemeanor count of child annoyance.
In May 2013, Pedro learned from his probation report in the newest case about his alleged conduct prior to her incident and that the district failed to take action, according to the suit.
The alleged history includes a 1991 investigation for inappropriate sexual misconduct with a female Ralston student; his firing in 1992 from an assistant janitor position at the Peninsula Jewish Community Center for peeping under a curtain at a group of teenage girls undressing in the locker room; groping and kissing a student he coached on the Ralston girls’ basketball team in 1993 under the guise of discussing her grades; and sexually harassing multiple female students between 1992 and 1996. The suit also claims school officials did not act on a fellow custodian’s 2005 discovery of a condom beneath Edwards’ desk.
But DeLapp said the district is only aware of the 1996 complaint and took “reasonable steps” after to keep Edwards from being alone with students.
“It’s a total 20/20 hindsight projection that little things add up to a conspiracy or negligence that never really occurred,” DeLapp said.
The district said it took the 1996 complaint “extremely seriously” but was legally barred from firing or otherwise disciplining Edwards based only on rumors or innuendo.
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