Sex abuse victim files suit against MDUSD

By Tamara Steiner on February 22, 2013

The victim of a Diablo View Middle School teacher sent to prison last year for sexually abusing her when she was a minor has filed a lawsuit against the Mt. Diablo Unified School District, DVMS principal Patti Bannister and convicted abuser, Andrew Bruce Cottrell.

According to court documents, Cottrell began “flirting” with “Jane Doe” as she is known in the lawsuit, when she was a student in his eighth grade science class. The flirting progressed to sexual activity when she was 14 and a freshman in high school and continued for about 18 months. She finally told her parents who notified police and Cottrell was arrested.

The victim who is now 18, suffered “physical and emotional injuries and other harm” from the abuse, which she claims school administration should have known about and prevented. She filed suit as “Jane Doe” to protect her privacy.

In December 2012, Cottrell was arrested and charged with 22 counts of felony sex abuse. Taking a deal from the District Attorney, he pleaded guilty to seven counts and was sentenced last June to nine years in prison. The suit, filed last week on February 11, has not yet been served on the defendants, said MDUSD General Counsel Greg Rolen.

“The first we heard about the lawsuit was when the Contra Costa Times called on Feb. 13,” Rolen said. “Nor, has any tort claim been made on the District.”

The victim’s attorneys claim they are exempt from the state law requiring claim be made against a public agency before filing a lawsuit since the case involves sexual abuse occurring after the law was changed in June 2009.

After Cottrell’s arrest in December 2011, the district conducted a “very thorough investigation,” said Rolen. “We asked everyone – parents, students, teachers, administration – if anyone had said anything. There were no reports or indications in anyway.”

“At this time,” said Rolen, “we are just waiting to be served.”

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