SAN JOSE, CA—A San Jose jury awarded a $102.5 million verdict on behalf of two female Dartmouth Middle School students who were sexually abused by Samuel Neipp. Attorneys Lauren Cerri of Corsiglia, McMahon & Allard and Natalie Weatherford of Taylor & Ring represented the two women through the five-week long jury trial against the Union School District.
“These young women are the true heroes in this story. This verdict proves that members of our community will not tolerate school districts that put the image and reputation of the school over the safety of children from sexual abuse,” said Lauren Cerri, who represented one victim who was awarded $65M. “The jury recognized the extent of the lifelong harm that was caused to both of these women and held the school district fully accountable for sexual abuse that was so clearly preventable and should never have occurred. The jury’s verdict sent a clear message to the district that the safety of students while at school should be their paramount concern, and that failure to provide safety to all female students will not be tolerated.”
“No one should have to endure what these two young women went through to obtain justice,” said Natalie Weatherford, who represented the other victim who was awarded $37.5 million. “For years the District turned a blind eye to parent and student complaints that Neipp was a sexual predator. Even more outrageous is that the District gave Neipp tenure and awarded him Teacher of the Year after receiving detailed complaints that he was targeting and boundary crossing with several middle school girls. This verdict should be a wake-up call to all schools in American that they need to put an end to teacher-student sexual abuse now.”
During the trial, retired school and District administrators testified about the success of the band program under Neipp, dismissing the multiple red flags that Neipp was a sexual predator and that the band program’s success came at the cost of the abuse of multiple students. These same witnesses attended closing arguments in support of the District’s defense.
Between 2009 and 2017, the Plaintiffs were students at Dartmouth Middle School when Samuel Neipp, a music teacher in his late 20s, began grooming the Plaintiffs on separate occasions by sending text messages, emails and regularly spending time alone with each of them in his classroom. This escalated to sexually suggestive remarks, holding their hands, and kissing and touching them while they each were alone on separate occasions in his classroom.
In 2010 USD administrators received concerns from a parent that Neipp was sending inappropriate text messages to her 13-year-old daughter. Then again, in 2013, another parent brought inappropriate text messages between Neipp and her 13-year-old daughter to the attention of the principal and other school district administrators. The district did nothing to increase the supervision of Neipp or the students in response to these complaints and instead gave the music teacher tenure and recognition as its Teacher of the Year.
In 2017, Neipp was arrested and charged with several felonies related for sexual abuse of the two Plaintiffs. He pled no contest and was sentenced to 52 years in prison.