A Sacramento family is suing the city and the Sacramento City Unified School District over a case in which an after-school aide at Mark Twain Elementary School molested at least six children inside his classroom.
The lawsuit, filed in Sacramento Superior Court on Monday on behalf of a 10-year-old Sacramento girl and her father, seeks damages from the district and the city over the actions of Joshua Rolando Vasquez.
Two weeks ago, Vasquez, who also is named in the suit, was sentenced to 150 years to life in prison for molesting the victim and five others ranging in age from 7 to 13.
Vasquez, 32, worked with the START program from 2010 to 2015, according to the lawsuit filed by attorney Stewart Katz.
The lawsuit says Vasquez “systematically victimized the children in his care for years and engaged in countless acts of sexual abuse and assault with these children.”
“While (the victim) attended the program and Vasquez’s class, Vasquez was given free rein to operate the START classroom as he wanted, as he was not supervised or checked upon at all, allowing him to engage in the horrible acts described herein,” the lawsuit states. “Indeed, Vasquez’s autonomy is evidenced by the fact that he was able to store his sexual toys and instruments of abuse in the classroom, utilizing a cabinet, locker and the refrigerator.”
The suit states that the START program was jointly managed by the school district and the city, and it names both as defendants.
“Our hearts go out to the victims and to their families,” the school district wrote in an email response to The Sacramento Bee. “We hope that there can be healing with time and support. As to today’s legal action, our legal team was aware of the possibility of a lawsuit and is ready to address it once we are served.”
City officials did not immediately provide a response to the lawsuit.
The victim, who is identified in the lawsuit only by initials, was assaulted while in the third and fourth grades as an 8- and 9-year-old, the suit states.
The lawsuit says Vasquez speaks Spanish and that many of the children in his care were Spanish speakers who “were particularly vulnerable to his abuse.”
“Vasquez’s general modus operandi was to blindfold one or more of the girls and use his position of trust to convince them that they were participating in innocent and appropriate children’s games,” the suit states, adding that he made video recordings of some of his assaults inside his classroom.
The suit also claims the school district ignored a complaint from one Vasquez victim, and did not act until November 2015, when the aunt of one victim called police and an investigation began.
The suit states that the investigation produced evidence of 60 separate acts against at least six victims, and notes that “it is still unknown” how many other victims there may be.
The suit also blames officials for failing to supervise Vasquez closely, and notes that “any reasonable supervision of Vasquez’s classroom would have noted as odd the presence of blindfolds, whip cream, lubricant, a box apparently inspired by the notorious ‘Saturday Night Live’ skit with Justin Timberlake and other props.”
Vasquez, who was paid $325 a week in his job as a “program leader,” is housed at Deuel Vocational Institution in Tracy.