ADAMS COUNTY, Colo. (CBS4)– Adams County School District 14 has paid a former 4th grade student who was molested by her teacher $5 million in a settlement. The girl’s attorneys characterized the settlement as a landmark amount.
Dan Sloane of Denver Trial Lawyers, one of the girl’s attorneys, told CBS4, ”It’s our understanding the $5 million paid is the largest settlement ever paid to an individual victim for teacher sex assault in Colorado history.”
Sloane and his law partner Mike Kane said the district paid the girl, who is now 18, in April, but news of the settlement only emerged this week.
“This is the worst case we’ve seen,” said Sloane. “It mandates the largest payout we’ve seen.”
The settlement stems from the actions of Gilbert Trujillo, 70, who was a teacher at Dupont Elementary school. Although he was arrested and charged with multiple sexual charges in 2013, a police affidavit shows students and parents had been complaining about Trujillo groping 4th and 5th grade girls for years, from 2005 through 2011.
The police investigation also indicates administrators allowed Trujillo back in the classroom. Trujillo was convicted of four felony counts in 2017 and was sentenced to 25 years to life in prison. Prosecutors said there were as many as six female victims.
Sloane and Mike Kane say they investigated their client’s case for a year and a half and were prepared to file a federal lawsuit against the district when the district agreed to the $5 million payout. According to the attorneys, the district paid $1.5 million and its insurer paid $3.5 million.
”This school and administration and the school district knew for years this particular teacher had inappropriate contact with young female students. They knew he had complaints lodged against him by parents for years prior. We were just shocked at the deliberate indifference the school district and the administration showed toward all students in their school,” said Kane.
According to Sloane, “If the proper action had been taken with previous victims of Gilbert Trujillo, our client would never have gotten to where she got. He would not have had the opportunity to sexually assault our 9-year-old client.”
CBS4 sought answers about the settlement from District 14 officials at a school board meeting Tuesday night.
John Poynton, the districts communications and strategy manager, said “Our attorneys will be responding when the time is right. All statements will be made by our attorneys because it’s a legal matter.”
Jonathan Fero, an attorney for the school district, declined to answer questions instead directing CBS4 to a statement the district released earlier in the day, stating “the District is deeply saddened by his (Trujillo’s) abhorrent conduct.”
The statement did not mention or address the $5 million settlement.
CBS4 filed a Colorado Open Records Act request seeking information about the payout, but the district again declined to release details.
“The Colorado Open Records Act requires denial of inspection that is contrary to any federal statute, including the Family Educational Records and Privacy Act, which prohibits the disclose of education records,” reads the district’s response.
In a statement released late Wednesday, the district suggested it was not commenting on the settlement to “prevent revictimization” of the former student.
“When an agreement make clear that all settlement terms are protected as education records under the federal student privacy law and requires all parties to maintain confidentiality, the District simply cannot comment at all about the settlement. Unfortunately, the District encounters a situation where a party or its attorney does not honor the confidentiality that was previously agreed to. Such situations are difficult because the District may be perceived to be unwilling to provide information it believes it cannot legally disclose.”
Sloane said the sexual abuse his client suffered at the hands of Trujillo has had long lasting impacts.
”Its devastated her life.”
He said the teenager has been in and out of mental hospitals and attempted to take her own life on multiple occasions. He said she is currently looking for a job and planning to enroll at an art school.