Attorney

Jury Hears Allegation of Cover-Up by Local School District

Former district investigator claims he was fired for reporting details of alleged student-on-student sex assaults.

San Diego Unified School District Superintendent Cindy Marten is expected to face tough courtroom questioning about her alleged efforts to cover-up sexual assaults at an elementary school in San Carlos.

A superior court jury heard opening statements today in a civil case filed by former school district investigator Michael Gurrieri, who claims top district administrators fired him because he refused to help cover-up serious problems at Green Elementary School.

"He had determined through his investigation that there were numerous incidents of sexual assault and sexual harassment occurring on elementary students at Green Elementary,” Gurrieri’s attorney Dean Janis said.

Janis said his client went where the evidence led him, in his investigation of a May 2013 incident in which a 5-year-old kindergarten student allegedly sexually assaulted another 5-year-old on school grounds.

Janis said Gurrieri’s report also revealed details about other student-on-student assaults and sexual harassment at the school and contained evidence that the school’s principal did not act quickly and decisively to fix the problem.

The attorney said evidence at the trial, including the expected testimony from Marten, will establish Gurrierri was terminated because he refused to cooperate with the district’s efforts to minimize the problem and protect the school’s principal.

"He continued to make complaints, to make noise,” Janis said. “He was unhappy about (the district’s strategy). And as a result, he was fired.”

The school district’s attorney strongly denied those allegations.

“The (district’s position) was always to provide transparency, and that will be evident in the documents that you will see," Michael Sullivan told the jury in his opening statement.

Sullivan said Guerrieri was fired only because he didn't do a good job, despite repeated efforts by his supervisor to help Guerrieri improve his investigative and report-writing skills.

“I believe that at the end of the case, when you are presented with the question as to whether or not Mr. Guerrieri was terminated because he complained about anything unlawful, or any health and safety issues, the evidence will not support any such finding," Sullivan said.

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