Yakima School District to pay $500,000 settlement in sex abuse case

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YAKIMA, Wash. — The Yakima School District will pay $500,000 to settle a lawsuit claiming the district mishandled a sexual abuse investigation that involved a former Franklin Middle School student, the plaintiff’s attorney said.

The lawsuit, filed in August 2017, alleged that the district failed to properly discipline paraeducator Aristeo Garcia Rubio, 33, after he was caught sexually grooming the 12-year-old student on school grounds in December 2014, according to Tamaki Law.

Garcia was placed on paid administrative leave after the student’s mother caught him walking her daughter home from school.

The district’s investigation revealed Garcia lying about his behavior, which involved walking the girl home from school, giving her gifts, asking her about her boyfriends and home life, and commenting on her good looks.

READ: Washington woman raped young child, shared video of the assault, court docs say

“Although Garcia violated school policy regarding sexual harassment of students, and despite the fact that the school’s principal urged his removal for the safety of her students, the district allowed Garcia to keep his job as a parapro at the student’s school. The district suspended Garcia for five days with pay, and released him to return to his regular duties as a parapro at Franklin Middle School in February 2015,” a news release from Tamaki Law said.

After Garcia returned to his regular duties, he once again started to groom the child. He continued to groom her and ultimately raped her at his home in May 2015.

Garcia was convicted of second-degree rape of a child and in December 2016, he was sentenced to life in prison with a minimum term of 120 months.

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The former student’s attorney, Bryan G. Smith, issued the following statement:

As a parent I was shocked to learn that the school didn’t fire Mr. Garcia Rubio after they learned he had been sexually grooming a 12 year old student. They brought him back into direct contact with students even after the principal asked the district to fire him. You don’t slap a sexual perpetrator on the hand after incidents like this. You fire them and never let them have contact with students again. The district had the power to fire him under the parapro’s collective bargaining agreement, but chose to not rock the boat. In the process, the district put its own interests to not rock the boat above the safety of its students. I think a jury would have been critical of the Yakima School District’s decision but my client wanted to move on with her life and not have to endure another trial. She went through the criminal trial process with courage and dignity, and is grateful that she will not have to go through a civil trial against the district.