Green Elementary School
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New details have emerged regarding an alleged sexual assault by an elementary-school student on another student at San Diego Unified School District's Green Elementary School.

On August 18, 2016, San Diego Unified School District superintendent Cindy Marten provided testimony in a lawsuit filed by former district investigator Michael Gurrieri. In his lawsuit, Gurrieri claims Marten and his supervisors fired him after he refused to change his report that Green Elementary's principal, Bruce Ferguson, failed to act on numerous sexual assault allegations as well as findings that Ferguson had been drinking on the job.

According to the deposition, Marten says she was not aware of Gurrieri's findings or that he had been fired. Most importantly, however, are allegations that the school district's staff had ruled that the alleged assault did not amount to sexual harassment, possibly to save Ferguson's job.

As reported by the Reader, parents of a kindergarten student at Green Elementary School (located in San Diego's San Carlos community) reported an assault on their son during school hours in May of 2013. The parents claimed their child was in the boys' bathroom when another student pulled his pants down and forced their child's penis inside his mouth.

The parents lodged a formal complaint against Ferguson, claiming he failed to follow district protocol in instances of alleged assault. By doing so, read the complaint, Ferguson created an environment "unsafe" for students.

In May 2019, Gurrieri, a former police detective from South Carolina who was hired by the district, was asked to look into the complaint.

Gurrieri found that Ferguson had mishandled other alleged sexual assaults and had reason to believe he was abusing alcohol while on the job. He submitted his findings to his boss, Carmina Duran, executive director for San Diego Unified's Quality Assurance Office.

According to his lawsuit, Gurrieri says Duran, superintendent Marten, and lead counsel for the district Andra Donovan later asked Gurrieri delete any mentions of previous incidents at Green Elementary as well as Ferguson's mishandling of them. Gurrieri refused and was later terminated.

As part of the lawsuit, Marten was called to testify in August of last year. In a deposition obtained by the Reader, Gurrieri's attorney, Mark Radi, asked Marten whether she considered an "incident between two boys — two kindergarten boys in the school bathroom where one of them forces oral copulation on another a serious incident?"

Marten answered, "It depends...I need to know all the facts before I would determine the seriousness of it."

Marten later denied knowing anything about the report or allegations that Ferguson had mishandled assault cases and was abusing alcohol during school hours. Marten also denied any role in asking Gurrieri to edit his report in an effort to save Ferguson's job.

In regard to the May 2013 incident, Marten admitted that district attorney Andra Donovan had determined that it did not constitute sexual harassment.

"Do you know whether your general counsel determined that that incident did not constitute sexual harassment?" asked Radi.

"I believe she may have," answered Marten.

Radi continued, "Are you aware that the [district's Office of Civil Rights] found that Ms. Donovan made the wrong determination that assault did not constitute sexual harassment?"

"I may have been informed of that," said Marten.

Doing so, surmised Radi, allowed the district to save Ferguson's job with the district. Shortly after the incident, Ferguson was transferred from a principal position to the Office of Language Acquisition.

A trial in Gurrieri's case is scheduled for March 3.

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Comments

nostalgic Jan. 26, 2017 @ 7:16 p.m.

Both of these children need help. None of the adults in this sad case seem to acknowledge the ones most damaged.

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Visduh Jan. 26, 2017 @ 8:28 p.m.

A response like "I believe she may have" is no answer at all. What kind of attorney for a plaintiff would just accept such a response? If the supe was saying that she didn't remember that was one thing, but the "believe" part coupled with "may" just says nothing. That sort of testimony, which isn't testimony at all, screams evasion.

Poor old SDUSD, the district that cannot find or keep any sort of decent superintendent. This one was proclaimed because she is home grown and female. But that means little when we recall that Poway's recently disgraced and fired supe was home grown for over a quarter century. Vista not so long ago had a female supe who was as useless and incompetent as could be imagined. No, they just go from flop superintendent to flop superintendent. It's as if the job is just too big for anyone to handle properly.

When you get people into roles of authority who cannot handle them, things like this follow as night follows day. What a miserable outcome from a miserable incident that was grossly mishandled.

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Herkimer Jan. 27, 2017 @ 3:18 p.m.

Visduh, you are 100% correct in your assessment. School Board members and Superintendents (Board appointees) are typically entry level politicians. Most already possess the necessary qualities of successful politicians: (a) cover your as$ and don’t make waves; (b) carry out the orders of those above you and cover their as$es as well. They have no intention of doing the “right” thing, but rather they do whatever’s necessary to advance their career. As I have stated in previous posts, by far the biggest problem in public education is the lack of quality leadership at the individual school sites as well as in the district offices. This ongoing saga regarding the incident(s) at Green Elementary illustrates just how broken the system really is, starting from the administrators at the district office, Marten et al; down to the the previous site administrator, Principal Ferguson. If the allegations are true in their entirety, Marten, Duran, Donovan, and Ferguson should all be terminated immediately. However, what will probably happen is that one of these distinguished protectors of our children will fall on the sword (with a nice termination package/pension no doubt), Principal Ferguson will continue greatly enhancing the Office of Language Acquisition (whatever the heck that is) at a 6 figure salary until he can retire in full regalia, and the taxpayers will be on the hook for a nice 6 digit settlement that the District will have to pay Gurrieri for his wrongful termination. As a retired educator with nearly 30 years of experience (and a parent/grandparent) I can assure you that this is business as usual. Can you imagine being the parent of the assaulted boy and having to watch this circus?! If it’s all true, of course. Wake up people! Quit blaming the teachers! Our kids deserve better!

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Visduh Jan. 27, 2017 @ 8:36 p.m.

I too am a retired teacher, although I didn't put in anywhere as many years as you. Soon after entering the profession I became profoundly concerned by "leaders" who had no discernible leadership traits or ability. For most of my life prior to entering teaching, I'd been at least deferential to the boss. A few experiences with principals left me utterly disillusioned. Those who are still in the classroom usually have no real respect for the campus or district administrators; they tolerate them and work around them, teach as best they are allowed to teach, and avoid run-ins with either parents or administrators. Some "profession" when you get scant respect or admiration.

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