Sex abuse victims at Fresno school reach $3.4 million settlement with school district

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The suspected abuser, Orange Center Elementary School's former principal Lance Clemente, committed suicide in 2014 when sheriff's deputies tried to serve a search warrant. (KFSN)

It's a new school year at Orange Center Elementary School, but for the victims of a sexual abuse case on this campus - there are no new beginnings.

"Because up to that point, the abuse was ongoing," attorney Jacob Rivas said. "It was consistent and there was really no deterrent to stop it."

Rivas represents four of the victims.

All of them claimed former principal Lance Clemente touched them sexually at school and in some cases made them watch pornography.

Clemente committed suicide in 2014 when sheriff's deputies could serve a search warrant, leaving the families to turn to the school district for answers.

"There existed a lot of evidence out of on that campus for pretty much anyone to see, if they had bothered to look at it," Rivas said.

The district and the victims reached a nearly $3.4 million settlement on Friday.

The school district's attorney would only give us this statement that explained that the district initially offered $3.75 million, but that Rivas "accepted $350,000 less than what he was offered eight months ago," the statement from school district attorney Jim Anwyl stated.

Rivas told us that's because he believed a jury would award more money if they went to trial but the victims did not want to testify.

"It's extremely difficult, it's embarrassing, and it's traumatic," he said. "And they didn't want to do it, so we went ahead and accepted their offer."

Rivas says the district never admitted fault, but he hopes this example will serve as a reminder for schools to take their students' safety seriously because dollars can't fix everything.

"The only remedy is money, unfortunately," Rivas said. "We can't restore them to their pre-abuse condition, we can't take away the damage that's been done psychologically and emotionally."
Related Topics:
newslawsuitfresnochild abuseFresno
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