A former Highland High School student is suing the Kern High School District and former Assistant Principal Mark Weir, claiming Weir sexually abused him.
Attorneys Paul Mones, Dave Ring and Natalie Weatherford, with the Manhattan Beach law firm Taylor & Ring, filed the lawsuit in Kern County Superior Court on Monday. According to the lawsuit, the victim was a homeless student who entered Highland High in 2009 as part of a school-sponsored homeless assistance program.
The lawsuit says Weir invited the student to participate in the program and, shortly after the plaintiff enrolled, Weir began sexually abusing him. The abuse lasted until after the victim left the school in 2011, according to the lawsuit.
“This young man suffered great pain and emotional distress for many years at the hands of Weir, who exploited his authority over a vulnerable student,” Mones said.
The lawsuit also faults the district for failing to notice obvious signs of abuse and strange behavior from Weir.
“Despite Weir’s repeated flirtation, overly friendly and inappropriate behavior, and repeatedly driving minor students in his personal car, no one at Highland High School questioned Weir’s actions,” the firm said.
Taylor & Ring said it’s suing the district because it failed in its responsibility to ensure student safety.
“As a direct result of the school’s negligence, this victim will forever suffer from this trauma and may never be able to conduct a normal, productive life,” Ring said. “We are determined to hold Weir and the district responsible.”
KHSD, however, said it became aware of the allegations last year when Weir was still employed with the district. He was placed on administrative leave last July while the Bakersfield Police Department conducted an investigation. He retired on Sept. 1 after working in the district since 1994.
“The allegations made in the lawsuit are very troubling and the alleged behavior, if true, is reprehensible and goes against our core values as educators,” the district said. “KHSD and its schools remain committed to the safety and well-being of students, staff, and the Kern High School District community.”
BPD recommended charges, but the case was dropped by the Kern County District Attorney’s office due to insufficient evidence, according to the department.
The lawsuit alleges that shortly after the victim came to the school, Weir began paying special attention to him, giving the student frequent compliments and offering additional financial support.
In fall 2009, the lawsuit alleges, Weir set up a meeting with the student in the parking lot of a Fosters Freeze fast-food restaurant, where the sexual abuse began. The law firm declined to provide details of how the alleged abuse came about.
Afterward, attorneys say, Weir would frequently call the student to his office during school hours. Behind locked doors, Weir allegedly touched the student inappropriately and engaged him in oral sex. The lawsuit says Weir also attempted anal sex.
The firm said these encounters would also occur off-campus after school hours.
“Weir exercised highly manipulative tactics to take advantage of his position as school administrator and supervisor of the homeless student assistance program to maintain a measure of control over (the student), leaving him fearful and uncertain how to extricate himself from the situation, as he felt beholden to Weir for his financial well-being,” the firm said.
Local defense attorney Kyle Humphrey, who is representing Weir, said the allegations are false and that this is just an attempt to get money from the Kern High School District.
“My client has no criminal responsibility in this. He has done nothing criminally wrong,” he said. “The way this reads to me is ‘we’re suing a guy and we want money.’ Somebody wants money from the school district because it has deep pockets.”