A jury in San Diego decided Wednesday that a 19-year-old man who sued a California school district after being sexually abused by a female teacher should receive $2.1 million.
The jurors found that the San Diego Unified School District was negligent in failing to prevent former Spanish teacher Toni Sutton from molesting the student over an eight-month period beginning when he was 15 and she was 37, the San Diego Union-Tribune reported.
The district must pay $840,000 of the $2.1 million, the newspaper reported, adding that district officials have not yet decided whether to appeal.
Sutton, now 40, who was sentenced to prison two years ago in the case, had sex with the student in her Crawford High School classroom, her car and her home dozens of times, the report said.
Sutton pleaded guilty in 2016 to unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor and oral copulation with a minor. She was ordered to register as a sex offender for life, FOX 5 San Diego reported.
The lawsuit argued that the district ignored red flags about Sutton's behavior. Key to their case was an expert’s testimony that the school district’s policies for preventing sexual abuse of students “did not meet the standard,” the Union-Tribune reported.
The financial award also reflected the jury’s consideration of the emotional damage and need for counseling the student experienced after Sutton was arrested, the report said.
Defense attorneys denied that district employees were negligent and said they responded appropriately once they realized that Sutton had been abusing the student.
In a previous case in 2009, a female student was awarded $1.25 million – of which the San Diego district had to pay $650,000 – after a male teacher was found to have molested a female student.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.