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Redlands teacher put on leave 2½ years ago faces sex abuse suit

October 25, 2013|By Richard Winton

A Redlands high school teacher who was placed on leave more than 2½ years ago is set to face accusations in court next week that she sexually abused one of her students, even checking the girl out of school so they could be together.

Megan Kelly, a teacher at Redlands East Valley High School, was not charged when prosecutors reviewed the case in 2011 but is now being dragged into civil court to face her accuser, a former student who says the instructor preyed on her typical school-girl weaknesses and, over time, began sexually abusing her.

The student, who is not being identified because of the nature of the allegations, is suing Kelly for sexual battery and emotional distress, and the school district for failing to prevent the alleged attacks.

“They let this girl be sexually abused repeatedly. They had plenty of warnings they ignored,” said John Manly, the former student’s attorney and a veteran litigator who help secure nearly $1 billion in settlements in priest sexual abuse cases.

It is the second time in months that a Redlands Unified School District teacher has been accused. A 28-year-old teacher was sentenced in July to a year in jail for having sex with three of her students, one of whom she had a baby with.

Kelly, 32, has denied the accusations and her attorney said she is being falsely accused, pointing out the allegations weren’t reported until two years after the alleged events.

Manly, though, calls it a classic case of sexual abuse, alleging the teacher first groomed the teenager and then took advantage of her.

He said the teacher, who was also a career counselor and coach, began driving the girl after high school soccer practices, excusing her from school and spending long hours with her.

The suit alleges what began as “sexual talk and innuendo” escalated to sexual activity, much of which allegedly occurred at Kelly’s Yucaipa home.

Manly alleges the district ignored signs that something was amiss. In one incident, the teacher was disciplined after she excused the student from a class in 2009, saying she was working on a soccer event. Kelly was not at school that day and, after initially authorizing that absence, called back to change it, according to a police report. The principal issued a letter of reprimand to Kelly, records show.

In court papers, Manly alleges Kelly bragged of her racy past including working as a stripper in her college days. But a judge this week ruled that such allegations will be inadmissible in the trial.

San Bernardino prosecutors declined to charge Kelly citing insufficient evidence and noted that the case was “difficult” because the alleged victim had taken two years to report it.

“The only corroboration is the phone records and although the calling of the student by teacher is probably inappropriate, it doesn’t help us establish there was a sexual relationship between the two,” prosecutors said.

A forensic examination of the accuser’s computer turned up no evidence to support her accusations, a police report noted. Manly insists that the use of instant messaging failed to create a computer records trail and Kelly’s electronics were never subject to a search warrant.

In court papers, Kelly’s lawyer wrote she is “heterosexual” and that the plaintiff had a “crush” on her. The papers also said the dozens of phone calls were mostly connected with the student “coming out.” Kelly acknowledges in court documents that she had almost daily conversation with the student in a “big sister-little sister” relationship as a mentor concerned about the student’s emotions.

The teacher's attorney, Randy Winet, asserts that while in college, the woman got help from Kelly on her biology course work and the accuser even came back to school to help with soccer coaching. The accuser never brought it up until the young woman allegedly saw Kelly with her new husband, he alleges.

The school district’s lawyers said that because the girl's parents never knew “about a sexual relationship with Ms. Kelly,” it is evidence that “sexual acts did not occur.”

Initially, the district lawyers had argued that the young woman and her parents were negligent, careless and put her in harm’s way. In a legal response, Manly wrote: “The simple truth is these defenses are a variations of the 'she asking for it defense' disguise, wrapped up in flowery legal language.” Manly said throughout the deposition of his client, the district lawyer asked if certain acts were “pleasurable” for her.

Attorney Steve Harber, who is representing the district, said at the beginning of the lawsuit the district had to disclose every possible defense, “but we will not offer a comparative negligence defense as relates to this young woman.”


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