A sexual abuse case that resulted in the criminal conviction of a former employee at North High School and spawned a string of lawsuits filed against the Kern High School District has given rise to yet another lawsuit.
Filed Wednesday, the suit names former North High equipment manager Edwin Rodriguez, KHSD, several district administrators and others. It was filed on behalf of Jane Doe 7, the seventh minor to come forward in the case.
The lawsuit contains six causes of action that allege, among other assertions, that Rodriguez, now 43, sexually harassed, molested and abused Jane Doe 7 from about March 2016 through September 2018, by taking advantage of his position of authority.
Attorneys for the plaintiff also allege in the lawsuit that school officials failed in their duties as "mandated reporters" to inform authorities about complaints by students and parents regarding the behavior of Rodriguez. The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages.
The district did not immediately respond Thursday to a phone message and an email seeking comment.
Chantal Trujillo, an attorney and partner at Rodriguez & Associates, which filed the civil action, said Edwin Rodriguez's inappropriate behavior with multiple female students was allowed to continue, even after students alerted administrators and staff.
"Throughout the process of investigating this case, we came to discover the school district had had no training to identify teacher-to-student sexual misconduct," she said.
"Edwin Rodriguez had been crossing the boundaries of behavior" for years, she said.
An investigation by the Kern County Sheriff's Office determined Rodriguez had sent explicit messages, including photos and videos, to eight underage students through the social media platform Snapchat and that he had sexual contact with several of the students dating back to 2015.
Snapchat is a platform in which messages, photos and videos automatically delete after they are viewed by the recipient. He also allegedly sent text messages to girls telling them he thought they were "hot" or commented on various parts of their bodies, according to Sheriff's Office reports filed in Kern County Superior Court.
According to Trujillo, members of the cheerleader squad complained that Edwin Rodriguez would regularly come to cheerleader practice, which made them feel uncomfortable. Rodriguez's wife, Josie Rodriguez, was the cheerleading coach and is named as a defendant in the lawsuit.
"Some girls went to the office and complained," Trujillo said. "The school promised it would be taken care of, but he was back out there the same afternoon."
School administrators waited months to report Rodriguez's behavior and student complaints to law enforcement, she said.
"He could have been stopped much earlier."
Rodriguez agreed to a plea deal in November. He had been charged with 11 felony and 13 misdemeanor counts of sexual misconduct with minors. The deal allowed Rodriguez to plead to one felony count of committing a lewd or lascivious act act with a 14 or 15 year old in exchange for a sentence of three years in jail and to register as a sex offender.
Twenty-three other charges were dismissed under the plea agreement.
"He was allowed to plead no contest. He didn't even plead guilty," Trujillo said.
Rodriguez was released in December on time served after being behind bars since February 2019.
Said Trujillo, "It was the deal of a lifetime."