Protest Over Mt. Diablo School District's Handling of Molestation Lawsuit - NBC Bay Area
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Protest Over Mt. Diablo School District's Handling of Molestation Lawsuit

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    Protest Over Mt. Diablo School District's Handling of Molestation Lawsuit

    Advocates for sexual abuse victims want the Mt. Diablo School District to know they are outraged. Jodi Hernandez reports. (Published Monday, Dec. 7, 2015)

    The Mt. Diablo School District is under fire for the way it is handling a lawsuit by students sexually abused by an elementary school teacher.

    Former teacher Joseph Martin was convicted in January of molesting seven boys, but attorneys for the school district have indicated they still do not believe the molestation ever happened.

    Advocates for sexual abuse victims are outraged and in response demonstrated Monday outside the district office to protest its handling of the lawsuit.

    "I'm here for the victims," said Melanie Sakoda, a sex abuse victim advocate, at Monday's protest. "I'm here to say I believe them and what the school district is doing is outrageous. As members of the public we hope to put pressure on the school district to think about what they're doing."

    Martin was convicted of molesting seven boys between 2007 and 2013. The boys are suing the school district, claiming it did not do enough to protect them.

    "The district should have and needed to act much more quickly than they did and they swept it under the rug," said Marc Lewis, an attorney representing the victims.

    In a surprising move, the district's attorneys have indicated they do not believe the molestation really took place.

    Transcripts from an October hearing shows the district's attorney indicated he plans to re-question the boys.

    "It was very clear from the transcripts they would like to retry the issue of whether this guy was using appropriate touch or not," Sakoda said. "I'm sorry though the book is closed on that -- he's been convicted."

    Advocates said the district's strategy is hurtful and sends the wrong message to victims of abuse.

    "There may be other victims of this guy and instead of taking legal actions to discourage reporting, they should be reaching out to children," said Tim Lennon, a sex abuse victim advocate.

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