Jurors heard closing arguments Tuesday in the civil case filed against the San Diego Unified School District for the alleged wrongful termination of an investigator looking into a sexual assault incident involving two kindergartners.
Michael Gurrieri, a district employee assigned to investigate the sexual assault at Green Elementary School in San Carlos, believes he was wrongfully fired because he would not remove allegations and witness interviews from his report as suggested by his supervisors.
The case centers around a May 2013 incident in which a kindergarten boy pulled down another kindergarten boy’s pants and sexually assaulted him.
In the process of investigating that incident, Gurrieri says he uncovered other incidents of abuse at Green, and the principal did not do anything about them and did not keep the school safe for all children.
Superintendent Cindy Marten was called to testify in the case and said she absolutely did not try to protect the district and an elementary school principal from negative publicity.
Gurrieri named his supervisor, Carmina Duran, in the civil suit.
Gurrieri's attorney Mark Radi asked the jury to consider the case as David versus Goliath, with his client playing the role of David.
"It's a case of a massive entity trying to snuff out the lone investigator as the final act in the cover-up," Radi said in court.
"The defendants were covering up incidents of sexual harassment and misconduct occurring in the elementary school, and Mr. Gurrieri was fired because he wouldn't play along," Radi added.
Radi ended by assuring the jury the case wasn't about the money, but about sending a message to the school district. He asked if it was or was not OK to ignore sexual harassment, cover up abuse and fire an employee who was trying to do the right thing.
Michael Sullivan, defense attorney for the district, argued that there was no cover-up and that Gurrieri was fired based on job performance and a lack of willingness to improve despite offers to help from Duran.
"He made it clear there he wasn't going to try. That's the reason for the decision," Sullivan said.
Gurrieri is asking for $625,000 from the district.
Jury deliberations will continue Wednesday.