A Kern County jury has awarded $10 million to a girl allegedly molested by a computer lab tech who worked at the Lamont Elementary School District.
Attorney Daniel Rodriguez, whose office represented the alleged victim, said the jury awarded that amount Wednesday against Jonathan Avalos, who worked for the district for eight years until he resigned in 2014.
Additionally, before the trial against Avalos began, the district and the Boys & Girls Clubs of Kern County agreed to pay a combined $1.5 million to be held for the girl until she turns 18.
They jointly held the after-school program where the alleged molestation occurred.
Leonard Herr, the attorney representing the district, said it accepted responsibility for any harm caused to the girl.
"We wanted to save the young lady and her family from having to go through with a trial," he said of the settlement.
She'll receive the settlement money, but Rodriguez said it's unlikely the girl will ever receive any money from Avalos. He recently declared bankruptcy.
But Rodriguez said he filed the case to achieve justice for the girl and her family and to serve as a deterrent to schools that ignore this type of behavior.
"I want to commend the jurors for doing the right thing in sending a message that our community won’t tolerate this kind of thing happening in our schools," Rodriguez said. "They had the courage to be a voice for this little girl."
Alan K. Brubaker, a San Diego-based attorney who represented the Boys & Girls Clubs, said Avalos only worked for the organization for a short while. He was fired.
Brubaker said Boys & Girls Clubs of Kern County does not tolerate inappropriate or illegal behavior on the part of its staff and is reviewing its policies.
"They were devastated by this incident," Brubaker said. "The thoughts and sympathies of the institution are with the girl and her family."
Rodriguez said the school district did little to investigate "red flags" raised about Avalos' conduct between 2009 and 2014. It transferred him four times, three of those transfers prompted by complaints about his behavior.
Among those red flags, several teachers reported Avalos held a dance in a classroom where the lights were turned off and inappropriate music was played. It was also reported he would keep the alleged victim in a classroom while sending out the rest of the class to play.
The girl reported the alleged molestation to the school office in 2014, Rodriguez said. She was 7 years old when the alleged molestation began in 2011, he said.
The attorney said there are believed to be three victims, one of whom testified at trial along with the girl he represented.
The district, upon accepting Avalos' resignation, agreed not to tell future employers about the circumstances of his leaving, Rodriguez said.
Avalos is currently working at a Starbucks in Downtown Disney.
The Kern County District Attorney's office found insufficient evidence to file criminal charges against Avalos, but Rodriguez said he plans on presenting the verdict and a transcript of witness testimony to prosecutors in the hope they'll take a fresh look at the case.