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Fourth Lawsuit Accuses Florida’s Liberty Elementary School of Concealing Child Sex Abuse

— October 3, 2019

The lawsuit accuses Liberty Elementary School Principal Esther M. Garcia of failing to make a mandatory report of suspected abuse.

A fourth lawsuit has been filed against Liberty Elementary School in Riverside, Florida, accusing district officials of neglecting their duty to report suspected child abuse.

According to the Press Enterprise, the case is the latest in a series of suits against the school. Each of the four complaints claim that officials failed to report former technology aide Fernando Figueroa to local law enforcement.

Filed September 19th in Riverside Superior Court, the suit names Riverside Unified School District and former Liberty Principal Esther M. Garcia as defendants, along with several others. Led by Irvine-based firms Manly, Stewart & Finaldi and The Senators Firm, the suit is similar to the other three filed against the district. The Press Enterprise notes that one of the cases was settled last December for about $6.2 million.

Between the three four complaints, attorneys have alleged that Figueroa molested at least 11 students. The abuse purportedly occurred between 2014 and 2017, with Figueroa targeting children between the ages of 8 and 11.

The former aide was indicted on 25 counts of lewd acts with a child in 2017.

Figueroa has been charged with two dozen counts of child abuse. Gavel; image courtesy of bloomsberries, via Flickr, CC BY-ND 2.0, no changes made.

“This lawsuit represents scandal within RUSD that is spreading like cancer,” said attorney Morgan Stewart in a statement. “It is further evidence of a continuing pattern of abuse and disregard for the civil rights of students and families who are overwhelmingly poor and Latino.”

Attorneys working on behalf of the alleged victims say racial bias played an integral role in officials’ reluctance to investigate claims against Figueroa.

“RUSD has a historical pattern and practice of mistreating, marginalizing and ignoring the complaints of minorities, particularly those that are poor and unable to assert themselves,” the suit states. It also maintains that Principal Esther M. Garcia never called police or launched any kind of formal inquiry after being made aware of allegations against Figueroa. In fact, the suit claims that Garcia falsified documents to show that Figueroa only worked with students while supervised, as required by state law.

The latest complaint also claims that during the 2015-2016 academic year, a victim complained both to her mother and Garcia that she’d been abused by Figueroa. The same student allegedly tried to protect another classmate from Figueroa by hiding the girl in a restroom, too.

“Upon information and belief, Garcia took no action in response to the reported criminal actions of Figueroa, including that she chose not to make a mandated report per her legal obligations,” the lawsuit says.

The Press Enterprise adds that another victim told a fourth-grade teacher that she, too, had been abused by Figueroa. The teacher, in turn, told Garcia.

Garcia purportedly told the student to seek counseling and never filed an official report.


Fourth sex abuse lawsuit filed against former Riverside elementary school tech aide

Riverside Unified faces new lawsuit from 3 more alleged victims in sex abuse case

Third Lawsuit Against Riverside School District Alleges Principal, Staff Failed To Protect Children

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