The Grossmont Union High School District is looking to put to rest two sexual abuse lawsuits filed by former students against a drama teacher at Granite Hills High School in El Cajon.
On March 17 attorneys for a former student, known as John Roe 3 to protect the student's identity, dismissed their complaint against the school district. The terms of the dismissal were not made public.
In that lawsuit, filed in February 2016, a former student sued the district for negligence, and failure to act on the allegations that James Chatham, a drama teacher at Granite Hills High School, sexually assaulted the then 17-year-old. The victim claimed Chatham gained the student's confidence and in September 2013 allegedly began inappropriately touching the student. He often rubbed the student's lower back, eventually caressing his upper thighs and groin. Chatham also played a "kissing game" with the student where he would come close to kissing him before backing away. The suit alleges that on at least one occasion Chatham did kiss the teen. A complaint was made to principal Georgette Torres, who according to the lawsuit, had already been made aware of other allegations of abuse against Chatham, yet failed to act.
The dismissal occurred as the district fought a separate lawsuit from another student, known as John Roe, who also alleged that Chatham sexually abused him during the prior school year.
Court records show that case has entered mediation, an indication a settlement may be forthcoming.
In that lawsuit, filed in February 2015, Chatham worked to gain the trust of the then 16-year-old. Between October of 2012 through June 2013, Chatham began to molest the boy, often kissing him and fondling his genitals. Chatham urged the boy to remain silent about their relationship.
The following school year another student complained to an El Cajon Police Officer assigned to the high school about the inappropriate relationships between Chatham and his students. The officer approached the drama teacher about the improper relationship. During their encounter Chatham allegedly admitted to molesting the boy.
Chatham was forced to resign.
In 2014, he pled guilty to three misdemeanors including committing a lewd act in public and battery. He was sentenced to three years of probation and ordered to register as a sex offender.
If both sides fail to reach an agreement the civil jury trial in that case is scheduled for November 2017.