A claim has been filed on behalf of a 14-year-old Yuba City High School student, alleging that the school district failed to act on numerous concerns raised by students, teachers and other employees about the conduct of a teacher now targeted for termination.
Attorney Michael J. Trezza of Yuba City filed the claim for damages Wednesday with the Yuba City Unified School District alleging that Yuba City High School teacher Jim Whiteaker, 52, engaged in sexual misconduct with female students. He released copies of the claim to the media on Friday.
Whiteaker, a physical education teacher at the high school, also represents District 4 on the Sutter County Board of Supervisors.
The claimant alleges that she was in her physical education class on Jan. 16 when Whiteaker “approached her without her knowledge and grabbed her buttocks,” the claim states.
She went inside the gym with her friend and reported the incident to another physical education teacher, who allegedly told her that men Whiteaker’s age “like to play around like that,” the claims states. The girl’s physical education teacher failed to report Whiteaker’s misconduct as required by law, the claim alleges.
The claim was filed the day after the district board of trustees directed staff members to bring a statement of charges for the termination of a certificated employee at the board’s next regular meeting on Feb. 13.
The district, citing laws governing employee confidentiality, has not named the teacher. But Whiteaker’s attorney, Roberto Marquez of Marysville, confirmed earlier this week that Whiteaker was on administrative leave pending action by the school board that could end in termination of his employment with the district.
The district issued a statement Jan. 22 saying that a Yuba City High School teacher had been placed on leave following an allegation of inappropriate conduct “when intervening in an interaction between two students on campus.” It said the district would investigate the matter and had referred it to local law enforcement agencies.
Trezza in a written statement Friday said claims that the conduct occurred while Whiteaker was breaking up a fight are false.
The school board held special meetings over two days last week that included a closed session item on employee discipline and termination, as well as public comment. At least three people stepped to the podium to accuse the teacher of inappropriate sexual behavior with students, or to ask the board to terminate him.
The claim filed by Trezza alleges that, despite other “red flags” from teachers, parents and students, the district failed to take any disciplinary action against Whiteaker or thoroughly investigate reports of inappropriate behavior. It states that another student and parent complained to school administrators in October 2014, alleging that Whiteaker videotaped a 15-year-old girl while she was participating in his physical education class. Whiteaker allegedly filmed the girl’s buttocks and her body from the waist down, and admitted doing so when confronted by the girl and her mother, the claim states.
The claim is for damages in the amount of at least $500,000 and states that litigation will follow if the matter is not resolved.
Marquez, Whiteaker’s attorney, could not be reached for comment on the claim late Friday afternoon. Speaking about his client and the district’s termination proceedings earlier in the week, Marquez said, “His position is that he did nothing that would justify any kind of termination. He would be looking forward to vindication when he gets to exercise his due process.”
According to Whiteaker’s profile on the Sutter County government website, he is a lifelong resident of Sutter County and a 1983 graduate of Yuba City High School. It states that he is a former varsity basketball coach at the high school.
Whiteaker was elected to the county Board of Supervisors in November 2002.