SAN JOSE (KPIX 5) – In a landmark lawsuit filed Monday, several childhood sexual abuse attorneys claimed a San Jose school district failed to protect students from teachers who sexually abused them.
The suit also required that the district put new policies in place to prevent staff from preying on children.
“Since school districts at least in this area have shown that they cannot do this we’re going to ask the courts to do it for them,” said attorney Robert Allard.
The lawsuit demands that the Union School District in San Jose ban teachers from using social media or cell phones to communicate with students, copy parents on emails to students, remove locks from offices and deny one-on-one meetings with students unless approved. It says if any of the policies are violated, the school employee should be suspended without pay or terminated.
The demands come more than one year after the arrest of well-liked Dartmouth Middle School music teacher Samuel Neipp, who is accused of sexually abusing two young students on school grounds for years.
Neipp, who was arrested in October 2017, is accused of sexually abusing a 13-year-old girl soon after he was hired in 2008.
In 2010, a parent informed Dartmouth staff that Neipp was sending inappropriate texts to her daughter, including one text that said, “The only girl I want anything to do with is you.”
However, the attorneys said instead of notifying police, school staff conducted their own investigation and simply warned Neipp not to send text messages to students.
He was promoted and tenured that same year.
In 2013, according to attorneys, another parent reported to Dartmouth staff that Neipp texted her daughter nearly 400 times.
“Again the school district did not report the conduct,” said attorney Lauren Cerri, who represents one of Neipp’s alleged victims.
Darmouth parent Thomas Bozarth said he was appalled when he heard of Neipp’s arrest more than a year ago, especially since his daughter took his class.
“They weren’t protecting the students at all,” said Bozarth. “They were just kind of sweeping it under the rug.”
Neipp was popular among students and parents. But the attorneys and investigators who held a news conference Monday to announce the lawsuit said, Neipp’s charm was part of his grooming process.
“He, in fact, actually had a camera to detect people coming into the classroom,” said retired San Jose police investigator Michael Leininger. “I would describe him as a serial predator, a very dangerous man.
They said teachers shouldn’t just be punished after the sexual assault, but before it even begins.
“If you can’t prevent the grooming and know what to look for you’re never going to prevent the sexual assault,” said retired investigator Ray Mendoza.
The Union School District superintendent did not want to go on camera for an interview, and instead released a statement through an attorney that read in part, “After Mr. Neipp’s arrest, the District immediately placed him on administrative leave. Administration, teachers and staff will continue to work toward ensuring that every one of our students feels safe at school.”
Meanwhile, Neipp remains in custody.
He is just one of several teachers in San Jose arrested in the last couple of years for allegedly sexually abusing students.