The family of a Franklin Middle School student has reached a $500,000 out-of-court settlement with the Yakima School District after the school failed to fire Aristeo Garcia-Rubio, a para-educator that was discovered to have been sexually grooming the child.
Despite receiving a complaint from the child’s mother and protests from the school’s principal, Garcia-Rubio was allowed to return to work after five days of paid leave. In the ensuing weeks, he continued the inappropriate behavior and ultimately raped the 12-year-old girl at his home.
In June of 2015, Garcia Rubio was arrested and convicted for rape of a child and is currently serving a 10-year prison sentence.
Megan Hale, one of the attorneys representing the victim, said that the school violated its own policy for fear of a wrongful termination lawsuit, disregarding the continued endangerment of its students.
“School administrators and staff later admitted that Garcia’s conduct raised several ‘red flags’ early on, but they did not take action until the girl’s mother blew the whistle. Even then, the district became complacent in its investigation, passed the buck to the police and ultimately dismissed Garcia’s unprofessional conduct without evidence of a crime,” she said.
During the investigation, school district personnel had noticed some of their colleague’s many inappropriate behaviors, which included hand touching, giving unwanted gifts, and exhibiting inappropriate body language toward the victim.
“School administrators and staff later admitted that Garcia’s conduct raised several ‘red flags’ early on, but they did not take action until the girl’s mother blew the whistle.”
In a statement after the settlement was reached, the victim’s attorney Bryan Smith said:
“As a parent, I was shocked to learn that the school didn’t fire Mr. Garcia Rubio after they learned he had been sexually grooming a 12-year-old student. They brought him back into direct contact with students even after the principal asked the district to fire him.
“You don’t slap a sexual perpetrator on the hand after incidents like this. You fire them and never let them have contact with students again.
“The district had the power to fire him under the parapro’s collective bargaining agreement but chose to not rock the boat. In the process, the district put its own interests above the safety of its students.
“I think a jury would have been critical of the Yakima School District’s decision, but my client wanted to move on with her life and not have to endure another trial. She went through the criminal trial process with courage and dignity and is grateful that she will not have to go through a civil trial against the district.”
As for how the Yakima School District will handle incidents like this in the future, attorney Megan Hale said, “No amount of hindsight can undo the damage that has been done to my client, but moving forward we hope something good can come from this for our community and beyond.”
The victim and her family say they are hopeful that the Yakima School District will come away from this lawsuit with plans to enact better policies that will protect students from sexual predators.
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If you or someone you know has been the victim of sexual abuse by a teacher or school administrator, contact the Tamaki Law team today.