Preston Lewis was allowed to teach although the state had yanked his foster care license.

Sacramento schools sued over sex case involving ex-teacher

Published: Friday, Mar. 22, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 1B
Last Modified: Sunday, Mar. 24, 2013 - 10:56 am

A teenage victim is suing the Sacramento City Unified School District and a former special education teacher convicted of child sex crimes.

Preston Howard Lewis was sentenced in October to 18 years in state prison after pleading no contest to three felonies and a misdemeanor for molesting a 7-year-old boy, sending sexual text messages to a 14-year-old student and possessing child pornography.

The student who received sexual text messages and his mother are plaintiffs in the lawsuit filed last month by Sacramento attorney Joseph C. George.

They complain that Lewis sexually abused the student during his middle-school years and that the district should have known about the teacher's "dangerous and exploitive propensities."

The suit uses fictitious names to identify the student as "Marcus Doe" and his mother as "Jane Doe." They are seeking an unspecified amount of money.

District spokesman Gabe Ross said the district has yet to be served with the lawsuit, "so there's not much we would comment about, except to say that we take any allegation like this extremely seriously."

Lewis was Marcus Doe's assigned special education teacher at Sam Brannan Middle School from 2008 – when the child was 13 – to 2010. The child was "groomed and wooed" by the teacher, George said.

"The parents would hear how cool this teacher was," George said. "They wouldn't allow him to see the teacher on weekends or go to his house.

"So then it became secret," George added. Lewis gave Marcus Doe a cellphone as a secret gift on which he sent the student sexual texts, the attorney said.

The sex texts weren't the full extent of the teacher's actions, the lawsuit alleges.

The plaintiffs complain that Lewis sexually abused the student on and off the Sam Brannan campus and threatened the youth with harm if he ever disclosed details of the abuse.

The student, now 17, was "significantly traumatized" and continues to suffer extreme mental anguish as well as emotional and physical injuries, the suit said.

The teenager kept the sexual abuse secret until August 2012. George said that was nearly two years after the boy was first interviewed by police.

"He suffers from the (effects) of child sexual abuse, which is why he didn't disclose the sexual abuse until two years after he was first interviewed by the police in October 2010," George wrote in a email. The disclosure came after Lewis' plea agreement.

The suit also complains that the school district was negligent in hiring and retaining Lewis and failed to investigate the teacher "despite evidence that his conduct was inappropriate."

Among the evidence cited in the suit:

• A Feb. 7, 2007, two-page district reprimand letter to Lewis noted that the teacher picked up a former middle school student – not the plaintiff – on weekends. Lewis took him to lunch and bought him gifts despite being told to stop contacting the boy, whose father had complained to district officials.

• On March 19, 2007, the state Department of Social Services revoked Lewis' foster care license. In that instance, according to the suit, the teacher was accused of fondling one boy and showering with another.

• The school district learned about the Social Services allegations and placed Lewis on paid administrative leave in May 2007. But the district subsequently retained Lewis.

• On June 4, 2010, a female student told the principal at Sam Brannan Middle School and a teacher that she was sexually assaulted during a class while Lewis looked away. The student also complained that boys in the class watched porn on cellphones.

The school district concluded that Lewis wasn't complicit, according to the suit. Lewis received 10 days of paid leave and was told he would be back for the fall 2010 classes, the suit said.

"You read the history," George said. "He is an obvious recidivist.

"Where was the supervision of this guy in light of what they knew? They knew everything."

State Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation records show Lewis is an inmate at the California Men's Colony in San Luis Obispo.

Call The Bee's Loretta Kalb, (916) 321-1073. Follow her on Twitter @LorettaSacBee. Read her Report Card blog at http://blogs.sacbee.com/report-card/.

© Copyright The Sacramento Bee. All rights reserved.

Read more articles by Loretta Kalb



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