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.