Despite reports that a North High athletic trainer had inappropriate contact with two students, school officials waited months to place him on administrative leave, during which time he sexually assaulted one of the students, according to two lawsuits filed last week.
The lawsuits allege reports of inappropriate behavior were made in January and March of 2018 but Edwin Rodriguez wasn't placed on administrative leave until September.
"These are very sad cases because they were 100 percent preventable," said attorney Daniel Rodriguez (no relation to Edwin Rodriguez), who is representing the two victims in the lawsuits. "The school district knew about this. They were told about this man. For whatever reason, they decided to ignore it."
Rodriguez was arrested last month and charged with 11 felony counts and 13 misdemeanor counts of sexual misconduct involving 10 current and former students — nine females and one male — since 2015.
In addition to Rodriguez, the lawsuits also name the Kern High School District, North High Principal Mark Balch, Dean of Students Melissa Rizo and school counselor April Anderson.
The Kern High School District did not comment specifically on the suits but said Edwin Rodriguez remains on unpaid administrative leave.
According to Daniel Rodriguez, one of the parents of the 15-year-old girl reached out to Balch, the North High principal, in March 2018 to report Edwin Rodriguez’s alleged inappropriate behavior.
"The parent said they didn't want him around their daughter," the attorney said. "The principal said he would look into it and take care of it, but obviously he didn’t."
According to court documents, the 15-year-old girl told Kern County Sheriff’s Office investigators she later was sexually assaulted by Edwin Rodriguez on four occasions in a classroom.
Documents also allege that Edwin Rodriguez sent obscene images and messages to a 17-year-old student, which she reported to her counselor and the dean of students in January 2018. But no action was taken against Edwin Rodriguez for nine months following her report.
"They should have called CPS (Child Protective Services) or the Sheriff’s Office right away," Daniel Rodriguez said.
It is mandatory for school employees to report suspicions of abuse, he said. School employees undergo training regarding sexual abuse and how to identify red flags that may suggest that a student is being abused.
Daniel Rodriguez said the lawsuits don't seek specific damage amounts and his clients would accept whatever a jury believes is reasonable.
Kyle Humphrey, Edwin Rodriguez's defense attorney, declined to comment Friday, saying he needed time to do additional research on the case.
Daniel Rodriguez said the Kern High School District should be held accountable for not adequately responding to student and parent concerns. If they had, he said, the sexual abuse could have been prevented.
A hearing on the suits is scheduled June 17 in Superior Court.