A complaint by a 14-year-old student and her mother alleges Yuba City High School physical education teacher Jim Whiteaker grabbed the girl by the buttocks two months ago.
The lawsuit was filed in Sutter County Superior Court and also claims negligence in the hiring, retention and supervision of the teacher during his 25-year term as a person in a position of authority with the school.
The complaint lists five incidents in which Whiteaker is alleged to have touched female students’ breasts, torso or buttocks, and another eight incidents in which he physically assaulted a student.
Retired Superintendent Nancy Aaberg and current Superintendent Doreen Osumi are also named in the suit.
Paul Matiasic is the family’s attorney. He says Whiteaker’s continued employment after these allegations and investigations is proof of willful negligence on the part of the district.
“Specific complaints by students and their parents were made to managing agents at the highest level, including to the current superintendent. Yet, these agents failed to act,” he said during a news conference at the Sutter County Superior Courthouse.
Osumi declined to comment on the lawsuit, but called district policy regarding student safety “very clear and very strict,” adding that “It is our policy and our expectation that any such conduct be reported immediately and acted on decisively.”
Aaberg referred all questions to the district office.
Whiteaker claims he used his knee and not his hand to separate two girls he says he thought were fighting.
His attorney, Roberto Marquez, says it is legally possible under education code that his client could be found guilty of negligence, but it is not legally possible for his client to be found guilty of sexual assault.
“They’re alleging intentional sexual tort, sexual battery — where you have to prove that there was sexual intent with this touching — and there’s no way you can prove that,” Marquez said
The girl says the incident was just she and a friend roughhousing.
The complaint also says staff at the school and the district failed to fulfill their legal duties as mandatory reporters once notified of allegations of misconduct.
According to the complaint, the plaintiff told another PE teacher that Whiteaker had grabbed her. She says that teacher “shrugged it off … by telling her that men Whiteaker’s age ‘like to play around like that.’”
Marquez says Whiteaker has never been disciplined by the district for any of the complaints against him.
The attorney also says, of all of the district documentation he has seen, only this case and one from 1998 include mentions of police reports being filed.