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Benicia School Teacher Charged with Sexual Abuse had Previous Record for Child Sexual Assault

Benicia School Teacher Charged with Sexual Abuse had Previous Record for Child Sexual Assault lawyer attorney

A Benicia Unified School District teacher was charged with 5 counts of lewd acts with a child under 14 years old on February 24, 2024. Matthew Joseph Shelton, a 5th grade teacher at Robert Semple Elementary, was arrested last month for sexually abusing a student at the school in 2022, according to court records.

A spokesperson for the school district said that Shelton was no longer employed at the school as of the 2023 – 2024 school year. Salary records indicated that he had worked at Robert Semple Elementary School since 2015. Prior to that, he was a substitute teacher for the school district. If you think of how many years he was a part of the Benicia Unified School District, there is probably a long list of victims in his wake, who are still living with the trauma of sexual assault.

His actions against the student at Robert Semple Elementary School are bad enough, but it’s been recently discovered that Shelton has a previous history of child sexual abuse while he was a teacher for the Napa Unified School District. In 2007, he was charged with inappropriate touching of 2 students at Phillips Edison Elementary School, who were 8 and 9 years old at the time.

The case went all the way to trial, with both students testifying against their former teacher. In spite of their efforts, Matthew Joseph Shelton was acquitted of all charges. He also fought to have his teaching credentials reinstated, which was clearly approved since he went on to work for the Benicia Unified School District.

Were you or someone you know sexually abused by Matthew Joseph Shelton or another staff member at Robert Semple Elementary School? Were you victimized by a sexual predator at another school that’s part of the Benicia Unified School District or the Napa Unified School District? We can help you sue the school district for sexual abuse and bring you justice in the form of monetary compensation. To decide if a lawsuit is in your best interest, contact our office and speak to a California school sexual abuse lawyer.

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Am I Eligible for a Lawsuit against the School District?

You have the right to sue the person that sexually abused you, but you can also file a lawsuit against the school district if they were negligent in their duty of care to you as a student. With the case involving Matthew Joseph Shelton, there are various forms of negligence that can serve as grounds for a lawsuit against the Benicia Unified School District.

For one thing, the previous allegations of sexual abuse by Shelton are available through public records. So, clearly, this was something that the school district would have or should have known about, yet they still chose to hire this man. Granted, he was acquitted of the charges filed by the girls at Phillips Edison Elementary School, but it’s astounding that school officials took the risk of hiring someone who was formally arrested and charged for child sexual assault.

Furthermore, it’s highly unlikely that there were no complaints of inappropriate conduct by Shelton in his 8 to 9 years of employment with the school system. We doubt that this recent victim was the first one to come forward and tell a teacher, the principal, or someone else about what Shelton was doing to them. So, what was done about complaints or suspicious behavior between Shelton and his students? If the school knew about his previous record, was there extra supervision or other precautionary measures to ensure that he did not engage in sexual misconduct?

Our guess is, the school district failed to take these and other reasonable actions that could have prevented this tragedy. And BUSD is just one of many school districts that look the other way when there are signs or accusations of sexual abuse. If they do anything at all, it’s a slap on the wrist punishment, like a temporary suspension that has the teacher back in the classroom in a matter of weeks. Or, they allow the offender to resign with a spotless record so they can find work at another school. In some cases, we were able to uncover evidence that was hidden by school administrators, which could have been used in a criminal prosecution against the teacher.

When we think of the school sexual assault cases we have settled over the years, we are certain that more victims of Matthew Joseph Shelton out there. If you are one of these individuals or someone who was sexually abused at another public school in California, please give us a call. During a free consultation, you can learn more about your rights and explore the option of suing a school district for sexual abuse by a teacher.

Average Value of a School Sexual Abuse Lawsuit

The average value of a lawsuit for sexual misconduct by a teacher is around $1,500,000 to $5,000,000 depending on the sexual acts, the resulting injuries, and other relevant factors. The amount of compensation can range from $450,000 to over $10,000,000, but you can generally expect payments of 6 to 7 figures. Keep in mind, however, that the value of your own lawsuit is based on many factors, including the damages you are owed. Possible damages from a child sexual abuse lawsuit include:

  • Emotional distress
  • Pain and suffering
  • Cost of therapy and other medical expenses
  • Lost wages / income opportunities
  • Loss of consortium
  • Legal fees
  • Treble damages

A school sexual assault lawyer at our office can explain each of these categories to you and ensure that you end up with every penny you deserve from a lawsuit against the Benicia Unfired School District or any other school system in the state of California.

How Long It Takes to Settle a Case for Sexual Abuse by a Teacher

A lawsuit for the sexual abuse of a student by a teacher can take just a few months to settle, though we would say that 1 to 2 years is a more realistic timeline. Suing a school district is more complicated than filing a lawsuit against a private entity, like a business or homeowner. Then, there are the added complications of suing for student sexual assault, which is not an accusation that any school wants to be associated with. That’s why the process of negotiating a favorable settlement can be very challenging, and why it’s in your best interest to have an experienced attorney by your side.

Many victims ask us about the possibility of their case being tried in court. While you often hear about school sexual abuse trials in the news, we want to assure you that 95% of these cases are settled privately between the victim and the school district. In the rare instance that a trial is required, resolving your case through a jury verdict can take 3 or more years.

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Statute of Limitations for a Child Sexual Assault Lawsuit

A lawsuit for sexual abuse while you were a child must be filed by your 40th birthday. This is based on the fact that you have 22 years after you are legally an adult (18 years old) to file a lawsuit for child sexual abuse. There is, however, a legal exception known as the discovery rule, which can extend the amount of time you have to sue the Benicia Unified School District.

Essentially, the discovery rule is based on realizing an injury from an accident or abuse incident at a later point in your life. Typically, it can take adult survivors of child sexual abuse many years to process what happened to them, as they have conditioned themselves to suppress these painful memories. In the meantime, there are various mental health issues that they struggle with, but they are unable to connect these problems with being sexually abused by a school teacher. With help from a therapist, they finally understand the harm that was caused by these incidents.

Thankfully, even if the victim is over 40 years old, the discovery of a physical or psychological injury provides them with 5 years in which to file a lawsuit. That’s why many of the clients we represent are in their 50s and 60s, meaning there is technically no age limit to when you can sue for being sexually abused as a student.

If all this is confusing to you, don’t worry – a school sexual abuse attorney is available to answer all your questions during a free consultation.

Talk to a California Sexual Abuse Lawyer

California has always been a leader in progressive laws and protections for sexual abuse victims. As a result, those who were abused many years ago can now come forward and claim the compensation they are entitled to. But navigating the legal process can be difficult even with the most straightforward cases, and that’s why we encourage you to contact our law firm.

The first step is to learn about your rights and legal options during a free case evaluation. If filing a school sexual assault lawsuit is right for you, there is no need to pay us, as we offer a Zero Fee Guarantee. This is a policy where all legal fees are billed to the school district, which is paid to us at the same time as your settlement check. In essence, the only way we get paid is by winning your case and ensuring that justice is served for you and your loved ones.

Please contact DTLA Law Group and schedule a time to speak with a lawyer that can sue a school district for sexual abuse.

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