Redlands Unified hires administrator to investigate sexual harassment claims, training reforms – Redlands Daily Facts

The Redlands Unified School District Board of Education on Tuesday, July 9, unanimously approved the hiring of Rudy Wilson, a longtime administrator at Desert Sands Unified School District in La Quinta, as the new deputy superintendent for compliance. Wilson’s hiring is consistent with a May agreement between the school district and the California Department of Justice that addresses how the district responds to complaints of sexual harassment and abuse. (Photo courtesy of Redlands Unified School District)

The Redlands Unified School District has approved the hiring of a new administrator who will be tasked with ensuring officials are doing everything they can to prevent incidents of sexual harassment and abuse that have become rampant in schools over the past two decades.

School board members on Tuesday, July 9, announced that Rudy Wilson — who previously worked for Desert Sands Unified School District in La Quinta — has been selected to serve as deputy superintendent of compliance. The board will approve Wilson’s employment contract at its next meeting on Aug. 6, according to the school district.

The decision comes six weeks after the California Department of Justice announced it had reached a settlement with the district over a conviction and conflict resolution following a 19-month civil rights investigation and that it would monitor the district’s handling of allegations and reports of sexual harassment and abuse for at least the next five years.

(John Valenzuela/Staff Photographer) Redlands Unified School District.

In a May 29 statement, Attorney General Rob Bonta said Redlands Unified “systematically violated laws designed to protect against and address complaints of sexual assault, harassment, and abuse,” including Title IX, the Child Abuse and Neglect Act and the Child Abuse Reporting Act, and sections of the California Education Code.

Under the terms of the district’s contract with the state, hiring an assistant director of compliance and sexual harassment was among a long list of provisions the district agreed to meet.

At Desert Sands Unified, Wilson served as senior director of human resources and also served as the district’s dispute resolution and compliance officer.

In a statement Wednesday, Redlands Unified Superintendent Juan Cabral said, “Dr. Wilson is an excellent addition to our team because he leads by example with high integrity.”

School Board Chairman Alex Vara said Wilson’s “extensive experience in education administration, particularly in compliance procedures and problem-solving, makes him uniquely qualified to serve in this critical role.”

“Our commitment to increasing compliance efforts and ensuring a safe, equitable learning environment for all students remains unwavering,” Vara said in a statement.

Vara said Wilson’s planned start date is July 22, but that date has not been confirmed. He said Wilson has worked in various administrative positions at Desert Sands Unified for the past 11 years.

Wilson will oversee district-wide compliance efforts, conduct administrative investigations, and provide training on model compliance procedures. He will also serve as a key liaison to district staff, school sites, parents, and community members.

The Justice Department’s actions in May followed an April announcement by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights that the district had reached a settlement agreement to address concerns about the district’s failure to adequately respond to reports of sexual misconduct involving students, including by employees.

In 74% of the 35 incidents of complaints of sexual assault or harassment against students that OCR reviewed between 2017 and 2020, Redlands Unified did not provide any evidence that the district took actions required by Title IX to “address the effects of the harassing behavior on the students targeted, as needed, and prevent the harassment from recurring,” according to a 20-page letter from OCR to the district.

Title IX was enacted in 1972 to protect individuals from discrimination on the basis of sex in educational programs or activities receiving federal financial assistance.

Although Redlands Unified did not admit to any Title IX violations, it agreed, among other things, to ensure compliance through its Title IX coordinator and, as necessary, to revise its Title IX policies and procedures.

The federal and state probes followed a Southern California News Group investigation that began in 2018 and lasted more than two years. It revealed that Redlands Unified for decades often failed to report teachers and other staff accused of grooming and sexually abusing students. The SCNG investigation found that in some cases, school district officials thwarted police investigations into sexual abuse.

Since 2016, Redlands Unified has paid more than $45.5 million to settle lawsuits alleging sexual harassment of students by former district teachers. The district has settled at least 17 such lawsuits, according to Morgan Stewart, with the Irvine law firm Manly, Stewart & Finaldi, which represented the former students.

Stewart said in an email Wednesday that his firm still has nine pending sexual harassment lawsuits against the district. And while he welcomed Wilson’s hiring, Stewart said the district has been evasive in the lawsuit and unwilling to turn over requested documents.