SACRAMENTO, Calif. — A Sacramento family is demanding accountability from the Sacramento City Unified School District and one of its former teachers.
They allege their daughter was molested by her third-grade teacher, and the district didn’t do enough to stop it.
Enrique Rodriguez Valladares taught third grade at Bowling Green Elementary School, until he was arrested back in 2021. His criminal trial is set to begin later this month, but the victim’s family says it’s not enough.
They announced Thursday they are suing Valladares and the Sacramento City Unified School District.
The family said they're tired of waiting for answers five years after they alleged their daughter was molested by her teacher at Bowling Green Elementary School.
Even though the alleged crimes happened in 2018, Enrique Rodriguez Valladares wasn’t arrested until 2021. He was charged with multiple counts of lewd or lascivious acts with a child. The victim was in the third grade at the time.
Now, the victim’s family says an arrest isn’t enough. They filed a lawsuit against both Valladares and the Sacramento City Unified School District.
One of the attorney’s representing the family, Vince Finaldi with Manly, Stewart & Finaldi, says the district has 30 days to respond to their claim.
“Finding out what this district knew when they knew it and how it was this teacher was able to be there for so long and assault so many kids it doesn’t happen without warning signs and major failure by the district,” said Finaldi.
The family’s attorneys claim there are as many as 17 victims, most of them Hispanic. They also alleged Valladares lured them with candy and was allowed to be alone in his classroom with them.
Bowling Green Elementary school specializes in helping English language learners. The victim’s attorneys say many families there may not have been comfortable reporting anything to law enforcement.
“Mr. Valladares was Hispanic, he was bilingual, he knew the system, he knew the families, he knew the kids, so I think the fact that he was Hispanic absolutely played a part in it,” said Finaldi.
Now, as the former teacher waits for his trial to begin later this month, the victim and family are struggling to move on.
Paul Hoybjerg with Hoybjerg Law is also assisting on the case.
“Education is essential to success in America and wanted to but their child on a path to realizing the American dream instead they have been traumatized by abuse and may never gain trust in the education system and other adults and authority figures which is necessary to succeed in life,” said Hoybjerg.
The school district says Valladares was placed on unpaid administrative leave in December of 2021 and resigned in January of 2023. School officials said they have cooperated with the investigation and that student safety is of the utmost importance.