Trial begins Monday in Los Altos schoolyard sex assault case

The main office of Loyola Elementary School in Los Altos. Post photo by Dave Price.

Daily Post Staff Writer

A $5 million lawsuit against the Los Altos School District over the alleged sex assault of a 10-year-old girl is headed to trial on Monday (Oct. 15) after the two sides were unable to reach a settlement, court documents show.

The girl’s parents, who are represented by San Diego attorney Patty Lewis, filed the suit in March 2017 and demanded a $5 million settlement from the district on April 13.

The district, which is represented by the San Francisco firm Dannis Woliver Kelley, offered the girl $40,000 on April 27. The girl’s parents came back with a demand for $1 million on Aug. 20.

The two sides couldn’t come to an agreement before Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Mark Pierce on Wednesday (Oct. 10) morning. The scheduled jury trial before Judge Peter Kirwan is expected to last five days.

The suit alleges that in January 2016, when the girl was in second grade at Loyola Elementary School, two 7-year boys trapped her behind a schoolyard shed on two occasions, pulling down her pants and pulling up her shirt.

The boys are accused of touching her private parts with their hands and a stick, pouring water down her back and putting dirt and mud down her pants. The second time it happened, the boys allegedly brought a third boy to watch and participate. That boy told another student, and the two alerted a playground aide to what was going on.

The girl has since moved to San Diego County, where she lives with her father.

The sign outside Loyola Elementary School. Post photo by Dave Price.

Her parents say that the assault led their daughter to lose “society, companionship and enjoyment of her peers” and that she would continue to incur future damages in the form of medical costs.

They contend their daughter has demonstrated inappropriate sexual behavior since the assault.

Palo Alto family therapist Cecilia Long wrote in January 2017 that the girl had processed the assault successfully through play therapy, but recommended continued therapy for the girl for further effects from it and from her parents’ divorce.

Could the assault have been prevented?

The girl’s parents’ legal argument focuses on the district’s alleged negligence to prevent the assault by not monitoring students’ behavior behind the shed.

District officials argue that they weren’t negligent in providing supervision, that they couldn’t have foreseen intentional sexual misconduct between children and that any effect the incident had on the girl was “long ago resolved.”

They’re also arguing that any anxiety the girl had was “far overshadowed by the other events in her life, for which she has received ongoing therapy.”

Those events include moving between her mother’s house and her father’s house, her parents’ “high-conflict divorce,” her mother’s relocation to the East Coast to be with her new husband and her mother’s pregnancy with her new half-sister.

Another lawsuit goes to mediation

One of the boys’ parents also filed a lawsuit against the district in April 2017, accusing the district of defaming and emotionally traumatizing their 8-year-old son by treating him like a criminal.

The boy is emotionally immature for his age and has autism and ADHD, hindering his ability to read social cues and respect others’ personal space.

His parents claimed that the three kids were pull- ing down their pants to “moon” and “pants” each other in an inappropriate, but innocent game.

The boy’s suit was dismissed in January in favor of mediation outside of court.

Lewis, the plaintiffs’ attorney, did not return a request for comment. Neither did the school district’s attorneys at Dannis Woliver Kelley.


  1. This is Los Altos after all. The City faces other lawsuits in Federal and State courts. City Hall staff and the Mayor seem to operate under the belief they can do whatever they want as they have “default immunity”. Not just in this instance but other cases as well they have engaged in cover up, denial, and simply refuse to even acknowledge, forget respond, to residents’ concerns re: abuse of office and bad faith.

    Watch that pack of cards tumble down in the near future.

  2. >The Town Crier has not reported on it.

    The Town Crier has not and would not report on it.
    It also CANNOT report on it–it is after all beholden to the very entities that back the current Mayor and Council, are pro-development and anti-residents, and have a vested interest in covering up City Hall & Council shenanigans, bad faith, misconduct.

    Kudos to the Daily Post for covering Los Altos matters far, far better (by a very long measure!) than Los Altos’ own “Town Crier”.

  3. It’s disgraceful that the local paper, the Town Crier, has suppressed this important story. Many local people refer to the rag as “the Town Liar” because of its obvious biases.

  4. OK, but the city and school district are completely separate. My concern about this story is the liability if the city loses. I assume they have insurance, but if the jury comes in with a large judgment (punitive damages), will the amount exceed the district’s insurance? If so, will the school board dip into its bond fund to pay off the family? There were obviously some problems at Loyola school for this to have happened, and the potential for liability here is frightening. It’s awful that the Loyola staff allowed this to happen, and now it’s sad about how all of us in the community who support the schools might end up paying $$$ for the school staff’s *possible* negligence. I put the word possible in air quotes because the trial will decide if there was negligence by the school staff. I appreciate the Daily Post reporting on this case because we, as taxpayers and school supporters, deserve to know the facts about this matter. I’ve never seen a word about this lawsuit in either the Town Crier or any of the parent newsletters from the school.

  5. Dan Fisher is rightly concerned about the liability that he and other residents of Los Altos, as taxpayers, would have to pay for owing to the *possible* negligence of school staff. His concern, and that of other residents too, would be amplified exponentially if they were to become familiar with the ongoing litigation incriminating the Mayor and City Council, the PD, City staff. Allegations in the lawsuits include civil rights violations by the defendants, bad faith including deliberate and intentional fabrications and misrepresentations to the public and their elected representatives by the Mayor and City Attorney and staff.

    Defendants are the City and named individuals. “Qualified immunity” is NOT going to save the individuals from accountability. The evidence is overwhelming and all from the City’s own records.

    Residents, you’d do well to note: the damages, and therefore the liability, is UNLIMITED.

  6. HJ, it’s best if you file a PRA request with the City and/or look up the Federal and State court system to get the actual filings. If I recall right the Daily Post even reported on one of them some months ago and the reporter–kudos to her!–learned of it by looking it up in the court’s system.

    Also, look up the July 10 2018 council meeting. At the very beginning of the public comments some residents reported instances of the Mayor and staff lying, misrepresenting, fabricating to other Council members and residents. They provided the evidence–from the City’s own records!–of staff and Mayor’s bad faith and deceit. They demanded an independent investigation and public discussion. The Council and City have been non-responsive, despite numerous requests since. A resident filed an official complaint with the City about two weeks ago. A PRA request should result in that complaint also being disclosed.

  7. I’m concerned that this sexual assault happened at Loyola and none of the staff were aware of it. And it sounds like the School District’s only defense is to blame the victim. This is outrageous. If the girl’s parents win this suit, the Loyola school staffers who let this happen need to brought up on Criminal Charges!

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