A California man who, as a teenager, fathered a baby with one of his high school teachers, will get a $6 million settlement from the Redlands school district, in what is one of the largest sex abuse settlements ever paid out in the U.S., The L.A. Times is reporting.
Attorneys for the man, who is now 21-years-old, say officials at the Redlands school district failed to take proper action when they first learned about the student’s relationship with the teacher – Laura Whitehurst – when he was just 16-years-old.
New booking photo for Redlands teacher Laura Whitehurst pic.twitter.com/7244fLnTiV
— Chris Ercoli (@CERCOLICBS) July 8, 2013
Beginning in 2012, the student and Whitehurst began a relationship. Initially, she would drive him back and forth to school and spend “long hours” with him. They then began attending church together, and later she started giving him alcohol and other gifts. She took him to Disneyland, where they had their first kiss. Eventually, they were having sexual intercourse at her apartment, says the former student.
“Physically, I feel sick to my stomach thinking about the manipulation I was subjected to.”
By 2013, Whitehurst was pregnant with the boy’s child. Later that year, she gave birth, with the teenage father in delivery room. A photo taken in the delivery room began making its way around the school, eventually reaching the attention of the principal. Attorney John Manley says that at the time, the principal chose to focus on the fact that a revealing photo was circulating around the school, rather than notifying authorities about criminal sexual abuse of a student.
“There was a picture of her in the birthing suite circulated to people at the school with the boy. The principal wrote an email about the photo.”
Redlands Superintendent Lori Rhodes maintains that the district was not aware of the relationship between Whitehurst and the student until the student’s mother called her and told her about it. By that time, the boy’s mother had already notified the police.
Whitehurst was eventually arrested and charged with 41 counts of unlawful sex acts with the father of her baby and two other teen boys. Facing up to 29 years in prison, Whitehurst instead took a plea deal and spent six months in jail. Following her sentence, she had to register as a sex offender, and as of this writing, she remains on probation.
SB Co. Dist. Attorney is seeking public’s help to ID additional vics of Laura Whitehurst. 909-798-7623 or 382-3660. pic.twitter.com/86cbs8A02e
— Kristina Hernandez (@TheFactsKris) July 3, 2013
The former student’s family filed a lawsuit against the Redlands School District, alleging that school officials knew of the sexual relationship between Whitehurst and the teenager and failed to notify authorities or the victim’s family. This week, the two sides settled. Under the terms of the suit, the Redlands School District does not admit to any wrongdoing.
District spokesman Tom DeLapp says the district settled the lawsuit in order to avoid facing a jury.
“In the long run, $6 million is high, but it could have been much higher if this had been left to an empathetic jury in another city looking past the facts to find a financial scapegoat for the unprofessional, criminal actions of one individual.”
Vince Finaldi, an attorney for the victim, says that the settlement is fair compensation given the actions of the school district.
“The size of this settlement represents the gravity of the damage done to this young victim and his family and it also highlights the extreme malfeasance and neglect by school officials who turned a blind eye to the criminal conduct of a teacher and failed to protect a student.”
Whitehurst and the father of her baby, meanwhile, share custody of their child.
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[Image via Shutterstock/parinyabinsuk]