nbc 7 investigates

Lawsuit: Elite Private School Fostered Inappropriate Student-Teacher Relations

Former teacher at The Bishop's School in La Jolla says school encouraged emotional ties with students

Bishop's School in La Jolla

A former teacher at one of San Diego’s most prestigious private high schools says the school is to blame for the inappropriate sexual relationship she had with a student. 

In September, as first reported by NBC 7 Investigates, a former student filed a lawsuit against The Bishop’s School in La Jolla and his former computer science teacher after years of alleged molestation he suffered. According to the lawsuit, the alleged abuse began in 1994 and lasted several years after he graduated.

The former student, who remains anonymous due to being a minor at the time of the alleged abuse, said the abuse began with flirting and hand holding. It then allegedly morphed into sex inside the computer science lab, at restaurants after school, inside hotel rooms, and at a local park.

Attorneys for the former student say he came forward after learning that the prestigious prep school was investigating numerous claims of teacher on student abuse.

But in a November 19 court filing obtained by NBC 7, the teacher is putting the blame on the school for encouraging her and other staff to “open up emotionally” with their students.

Reads the complaint, “The administrators at the school never trained or advised [her] regarding how she was to interact with students socially. She was encouraged by school administrators to treat her students as if they were her own children. She was encouraged by school administrators to socialize with the students and to keep in touch with them after they graduated. For many years the teachers at Bishops went on overnight school sanctioned ‘retreats’ with the students where the students were encouraged to open up emotionally to each other and to their teachers.”

The school’s policy, alleges the lawsuit, fostered a physical relationship to develop and “raises the issue of impropriety and does not respect the boundaries between teachers and students.”

Because of inadequate training and a policy that allegedly fostered improper relationships between faculty and students, the former teacher said she would often “hug” her students, give them gifts, and tell current and former students “that she ‘loved’ them and ‘missed’ them. This is not proper behavior, but again, it was not discouraged by the school but instead, was part of the school's ‘family and community’ culture.”

Attorneys for the former student say the latest court filing only strengthens their case and shows that the school is responsible for the abuse.

“The perpetrator admits that inappropriate contact was allowed, and even encouraged, at The Bishop’s School, which is what permitted our client to be preyed upon," said attorney Vince Finaldi with Manly, Stewart, and Finaldi. "This is just another example of how The Bishop’s School failed our client, and how The Bishop’s School did nothing to protect him.”

This is just another example of how The Bishop’s School failed our client, and how The Bishop’s School did nothing to protect him.

Vince Finaldi, Attorney for Former Bishop's Student

A spokesperson for The Bishop’s School called the allegations inaccurate and misrepresented the facts. 

“There are significant inaccuracies and unsubstantiated allegations in the filing. We will address the misrepresentations as this matter proceeds and fully expect the facts to prevail. As we have stated in the past, The Bishop’s School is fully committed to the safety and well-being of all students past and present.”

The attorney for the former teacher accused of the abuse did not respond to a request for comment. 

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