CA--Victims group applauds settlement in school sex abuse case
For immediate release: Tuesday, August 16, 2016
A tentative settlement has been reached in the lawsuit for damages filed by the victims of a Concord elementary school teacher who was convicted of sexual abuse last year.
The Mt. Diablo Unified School District (MDUSD) has tentatively agreed to pay $1.2 million to the 11 boys who sued the district. The children had sued for damages that occurred when teacher Joseph Martin repeatedly fondled their chests while they were students in his class at Woodside Elementary. The settlement still needs the approval of the school board before it is final.
Melanie Jula Sakoda, the East Bay Director for SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, responded to the news.
“I’m very happy to learn that once again the kids abused by Joseph Martin have been vindicated. It is unfortunate that the school district wasted time and money trying this case. Those funds could have been used to help heal the boys who were hurt, and to insure that something like this never happens again. Even worse, the district re-victimized these youngsters by implying that they were lying about the abuse when it had enough information to know they were telling the truth. Shame on them!”
The San Francisco Director for SNAP, Tim Lennon, added, “I am in awe of these courageous boys. They are showed great strength in reporting their abuse and in testifying in court, some of them three times. I hope their bravery inspires other victims to speak up and get help.”
Sakoda concluded, “It’s never too late to report abuse. Anyone who experienced, witnessed or suspected abuse by Martin should contact the police. No one should suffer alone and in silence! There are people who will believe you and support you."
Martin was convicted in 2015 of molesting seven boys between 2007 and 2013. He is currently serving a 12-year prison sentence, although he is appealing his conviction.
The district’s 2006 investigation into Martin’s behavior showed that district employees did not understand their responsibilities under the reporting law. The MDUSD tried very hard to keep the report from this investigation from becoming public.
Despite Martin’s conviction and the 2006 report, the school district argued at trial both that it had handled the earlier allegations appropriately, and that the boys had not been molested.
SNAP is the world’s oldest and largest support group for sexual abuse victims. Despite the word “priest” in its name, the group has members who suffered harm in all types of institutional settings, including schools, scouting and the military. Their website is SNAPnetwork.org.