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San Jose Music Teacher Charged with Sexual Abuse – Attorney for Abuse Victims

San Jose Music Teacher Charged with Sexual Abuse Attorney for Abuse Victims lawyer

Israel Santiago, a San José music teacher, was arrested in November 2022 for sexually abusing students at Adelante Dual Language Academy, starting in 2021. He has been charged with 12 offenses, including lewd acts on a child by force and numerous counts of molestation.

According to records from the Alum Rock Union Elementary School District, Santiago has had a long history of inappropriate contact with students. These include complaints from 2012 to 2014 at Sheppard Middle School and Painter Elementary. One student reported that Santiago would hug her repeatedly, continued to ask for hugs, and “picked her up, putting his arms under her legs and carrying her.”

Records show that an investigation by the district was conducted in 2014, and that the following statement was made by Imee Almazan, former principal of Sheppard Middle School: “Mr. Santiago has failed to practice good judgment regarding physical contact with students, in particular, females, and I find that conduct to be inappropriate and unprofessional.”

These acts of abuse are heinous enough on their own, but the school district’s response – rather, lack of a response – is particularly disturbing. Instead of firing Santiago, Alum Rock Union Elementary School District transferred him to another school (Adelante Dual Language). As one would expect, Santiago’s pattern of child sexual assault continued as he was moved from school to school.

Were you or your child sexually abused by Israel Santiago or another employee of the Alum Rock Union Elementary School District? Based on how long Santiago has been teaching in these schools, we expect that there are many more victims out there, who have been denied the justice they deserve. The child sexual assault lawsuit lawyers of DTLA Law Group are here to advise you of your rights and legal options. Please contact our law firm to schedule a free, confidential case review with one of our attorneys.

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Santiago’s Legacy of Abuse

Santiago’s pattern of child sexual abuse goes back many years, as indicated by documents from Painter Elementary and Sheppard Middle School. One of these victims, Natalie Hernandez, 22, said she reported Santiago’s conduct to her principal in 2012. As a student in his music class, she became increasingly disturbed by his behavior, which included sitting very close to her during private music lessons so that their knees were constantly touching. She said, “He kept adjusting his chair and my chair so our knees could be touching and we’d be really close to each other…I just did not feel comfortable at all.”

Despite telling the principal that he specifically asked only female students to stay for private lessons and that many of them did not feel safe with him, Santiago stayed at the school for two more years. As the complaints from students and parents escalated, the district decided that moving Santiago to another school was the best solution. In a letter from the school district’s chief human resources officer dated March 10, 2014, Santiago was told “Based on Principal Almazan’s recommendation to Human Resources and to the Superintendent we have decided to transfer you out of Sheppard Middle School.”

This is when Santiago was transferred to Adelante Dual Language Academy, where he perpetrated his crimes on a new set of victims. And how do these victims feel, now that the truth has been revealed about the school district’s actions? According to Natalie Hernandez, “I just remember being so angry, and even to this day, I’m so angry. It’s almost as if they forgot that we were kids.”

A School District’s Failure to Protect Their Students

It’s clear that negligence by the district played a huge role in these incidents, specifically, that they failed in their duty of care to the many children that attend their schools. This includes failing to alert the authorities so that a proper investigation was conducted, not taking swift action to remove Santiago from the school (firing or suspension), and putting other students in danger by transferring him to another school.

That’s why lawsuits of sexual abuse by teachers are typically filed against the school district, as well as the actual abuser. Those who aided and abetted the teacher, or concealed evidence of child sexual abuse, can also be sued by the victims for monetary damages, such as:

  • Pain and suffering
  • Medical expenses, including mental health counseling
  • Loss wages / income opportunities
  • Loss of consortium
  • Legal fees
  • Punitive damages

For more information on your compensation rights as a victim of child sexual assault, please reach out to us at our office.

What is the Deadline to File a School Sexual Abuse Lawsuit?

Statute of limitations refers to the amount of time that victims have if they wish to file a lawsuit against their abuser and other parties that share liability for their injuries. This is a very important topic when it comes to child sex abuse cases, due to the recent changes in the laws. On January 1, 2020, the California Legislature passed AB-218, which increased the amount of time that you have to sue for an incident of sexual abuse during childhood. According to the law, the deadline for these lawsuits is as follows:

  • Up to the age of 40, i.e., 22 years after reaching the age of majority
  • Within 5 years of when “the plaintiff discovers or reasonably should have discovered that psychological injury or illness occurring after the age of majority was caused by the sexual assault…”

The law further states that the statute of limitations is based on “whichever period expires later,” meaning your deadline for a lawsuit is the latter of these two dates. We know that the guidelines under the law are confusing, and you may be wondering exactly how much time you have to submit a compensation claim. Our attorneys can answer this question for you and ensure that your lawsuit against Alum Rock Union Elementary School District is filed on time.

How Much is the Average Settlement in these Cases?

Each case has many factors that are unique to the victim, the abuse they suffered, and how that abuse has impacted their life. That’s why “average” is not a word we like to use when it comes to settlement values. However, there are some generalizations that we can make, including the fact that these cases typically result in 6 to 7 figure settlements. If we were pressed to provide a range of case values, perhaps $450,000 to $1.5 million and above would be a good set of numbers to keep in mind. What’s important is figuring out what you are entitled to, based on your own circumstances. This is where we can be of help, so please contact us to discuss the approximate value of your case.

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How Long will it Take for my Case to be Settled?

We can’t deny that these cases take considerable time to settle, and this is to be expected when you are seeking compensation from a school district. The process of going after a public / government entity is quite different that suing a private individual, business, etc. As a result, there are additional complications we will need to resolve in order to negotiate your settlement award. Generally, we would say that one or two years is a reasonable amount of time to reach a settlement. However, a childhood sexual assault claim can take up to several years if your case goes to trial.

Free Second Opinion

Do you have a pending school sexual abuse claim against Alum Rock Union Elementary School District? Are you losing confidence in your lawyer’s ability to win your case, or have other concerns that are not being addressed by your law firm? Sadly, it’s quite common for attorneys to take such high-profile cases, only to move on to other things once the client signs on the dotted line. You may also have questions about your legal options, like whether you should accept a settlement or take your case to trial. A second opinion with the attorneys of DTLA can help you with these and many other issues that are on your mind.

This consultation is completely free of charge, so please give us a call to schedule a free second opinion.

Lawyers with Experience in Child Sexual Abuse Claims

The truth is, Alum Rock Union Elementary is one of many school districts in California that have turned a blind eye to complaints of sexual abuse by their teachers. And we know that the possibility of a sexual predator entering the school system is always a possibility. We don’t expect school districts to be psychics who can predict every act of abuse that will occur in their facilities. However, concealing reports of sexual contact between teachers and students and simply moving the offender from one school to another is inexcusable. When these incidents happen, it’s important to take every available legal action against the abuser and the entities that enabled them.

Our law firm is committed to fighting for you and the justice you deserve by law. Frankly, no amount of money will take away the pain and trauma you were forced to endure. But a lawsuit is a powerful way to hold your abuser, as well the school system, responsible for their negligence and misconduct. That’s why we invite you to discuss your case with us and learn about the ways we can assist you.

If pursuing a sexual abuse claim is in your best interest, you pay $0 to retain our services. With the Zero Fee Guarantee, clients never pay for the cost of legal fees. Our payment is included in your settlement check, which means we don’t make a penny unless you receive compensation from the defendant. With all that in mind, we hope you’ll take the chance of contacting us for a free consultation.

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