The family of a teenage girl sexually abused by a Chino Hills High School science teacher even after officials learned of inappropriate emails between them has been awarded $5.6 million by a jury.
The Chino Valley Unified School District was ordered to pay 60% of the verdict handed down Tuesday by a Rancho Cucamonga jury, and the former teacher, John Hirsch, who is now a convicted sex offender, must pay the remainder.
"The jury was outraged at the school district's conduct. This could have been easily prevented if the school had chosen to protect the student, instead of protecting the teacher," said attorney David Ring, who represented the girl's family. "The community should be incensed; school officials should lose their jobs for how they handled this matter."
School district officials did not return phone calls seeking comment.
After learning of the inappropriate emails, district officials did too little and even attempted to pass him off to another district with a letter of recommendation, according to the lawsuit.
Ring said the girl's parents reported to the district in October 2009 the inappropriate, romantic emails sent by the teacher to their then-14-year-old daughter.
Then-Principal Carl Hampton promised the parents he would take care of it, and the district ordered Hirsch to stay away from her. The girl also was removed from the teacher's class, according to court records.
But within a few weeks, the girl was back in his classroom for lunch on an almost daily basis, according to court records.
"No school administrator ever checked Hirsch's classroom to ensure he was staying away from the girl," Ring said.
But parents of a different child complained about the teacher talking about sexual conduct to students in his classroom in December 2009.
In February 2010, the district informed Hirsch he would not be rehired for the 2010-11 school year. He was allowed to finish out the school year teaching in the classroom, court records show.
"Within weeks, the evidence at trial showed Hirsch then started having sex with the girl in the classroom and off the school site as well," Ring said.
An assistant principal at the high school wrote Hirsch a letter of recommendation in May 2010 so he could use it to try to get a job at another district, court records show.
A neighbor of the girl's family saw Hirsch using a ladder to try to climb into her bedroom late at night June 4, 2010. He was arrested the next day.
Hirsch was convicted of felony unlawful sex with a minor and lewd and lascivious acts with a minor in April 2011 after he agreed to a plea bargain that dismissed five other felony counts.
He was sentenced to a year in jail and three years' probation and ordered to register as a sex offender and participate in a sex offender treatment program.