FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Gaping holes in the protection of students opened the door for a Fresno County principal to commit sex crimes against at least three young girls, according to a new lawsuit.
"(These are things) that should've waved a red flag with someone in the administration, one of the teachers, someone should've said something," said ABC30 legal analyst Tony Capozzi. "No one did."
Action News reported thoroughly on the investigation into Lance Clement's activities at Orange Center Elementary School District.
The full extent of Clement's crimes against his students may never be known. The 42-year-old principal and superintendent committed suicide last June when sheriff's investigators served a search warrant at his home. But months later, an attorney suing the school district and Clement's estate found a disturbing hint. In the principal's office, Ronald Martinez says he found five pictures of young girls on the back of the bathroom door.
"It was in plain sight for everyone to see," said Martinez. "I was able to notice it. I noticed it. No one pointed it out to me. And you know, it made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up."
Three lawsuits now claim Clement repeatedly called for girls from fifth to eighth grade to leave class and visit his office. Capozzi says that alone should've alerted school employees to possible trouble.
"It's rather egregious," he said. "It's a constant thing where these young girls are being brought to the office 15-30 times."
The latest victim to file suit was a seventh grader last year. The 13-year-old claims she almost didn't get to eighth grade - not because of her grades, but because Clement refused to sign her report card.
"He was committing these acts of abuse," said Martinez. "It was going on for quite a period of time and basically everyone was turning a blind eye to it and we're going to allege that he wanted that to keep going."
The lawsuits all portray Clement as a controlling figure who used intimidation as a weapon against his employees. But as mandatory reporters, Capozzi says they appear to have dropped the ball.
"This, I think, is something the school district may have been trying to cover up or trying to ignore," Capozzi said.
A janitor's report eventually drew the eyes of Fresno County sheriff's investigators.
The new superintendent did not respond to my request for comment on the lawsuits. The school district is due to give a legal response next month.
Girls molested by Fresno County principal after warning signs missed, lawsuit claims
An attorney suing the school district and Clement's estate found a disturbing hint. In the principal's office, Ronald Martinez says he found five pictures of young girls on the back of the bathroom door.
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