Hart district hit with 2 lawsuits over decades-old assault allegations 

The William S. Hart Union High School District office
The William S. Hart Union High School District office

The alleged mishandling of a pair of sexual assault allegations from decades ago has prompted two lawsuits against the William S. Hart Union High School District, according to L.A. County Superior Court records.  

The first lawsuit, filed in November, is from a former Sierra Vista Junior High School student who was raped during the 1974-75 school year by a disgraced teacher who was later fired for criminal charges, according to the complaint. That case had a management conference on Wednesday. 

The second lawsuit, filed in December, alleges a popular band teacher tried to assault a student in a soundproof instruction room in 1980 before her boyfriend came in and interrupted the alleged attack. That case has a management conference set for October. Both cases are expected to be heard in the Chatsworth Courthouse. 

The timing of the lawsuits is connected to the statute of limitations for the filing, according to the complaints. 

Both complaints contain wording from a provision in Assembly Bill 218, legislation signed into law in 2019 intended to help adults who were victims of sexual assault recoup damages, which states: “any claim … that has not been litigated to finality and that would otherwise be barred as of Jan. 1, 2020, because the applicable statute of limitations, claim presentation deadline, or any other time limit had expired, is revived, and these claims may be commenced within three years of Jan. 1, 2020.” 

The 340.1(q) provision allowed a window for victims to file their retroactive claims and seek damages because both of the alleged victims are over the age of 40. 

Hart district governing board President Bob Jenkins said the district could not comment at this time as the lawsuits are part of active litigation. 

Sierra Vista incident 

The complaint filed on behalf of the Sierra Vista student, who is now a 61-year-old Riverside County resident, states the student missed her bus home from school when she was offered a ride by a teacher, who is identified in later court documents as Roy Turner. 

Turner offered to drive the plaintiff home in his truck, according to the complaint, which also claims the teacher groomed the student with gifts, including makeup and shoes. 

“Tragically, instead of taking the plaintiff directly to her residence, (Turner) drove off into an unfamiliar, deserted area, stopped the truck, and forcibly engaged in sexual intercourse with plaintiff,” the lawsuit states.  

The victim claims the humiliation continued for the rest of the school year, as she was forced to continually see the woodshop teacher, who also, according to the complaint, had a reputation for harassing young girls and being inappropriate, which was known around the campus. 

The lawsuit claims Turner threatened the girl to stay quiet about the abuse and continued to surreptitiously assault the student, grabbing her through her clothes and making lewd gestures. 

The plaintiff claims the alleged sexual and psychological abuse led her to dropping out of school. 

The lawsuit asserts the district ignored previous claims about the suspect’s behavior. 

According to a story in The Signal from the June 18, 1975, edition titled, “Instructor resigns under fire,” a metal shop teacher at Sierra Vista named Roy Turner resigned following allegations from three other girls, two of whom claimed he pinched them and a third who said Turner asked her on a date. 

A brief that ran the following month noted Turner received probation after pleading to one count of disturbing the peace. The other two charges against him were dropped as a result.  

During a case-management hearing Wednesday, the counsel for the plaintiff asked for more time to serve an outstanding defendant.  

A call to the firm listed for the plaintiff, Slater Slater Schulman, was not returned as of Thursday. The next case-management meeting has been set for December. 

Saugus High School incident 

The proof of service for the second lawsuit was filed with L.A. County Superior Court in Chatsworth on July 21, according to the 40-page complaint. 

The district’s answer to the lawsuit cites 28 grounds for defense, including that the district was not aware of the actions of the alleged abuser, Jeffrey W. Plum, who became the band director of Saugus High School in 1980, until it was served with the lawsuit. 

The district’s answer, filed by McCune & Harber on behalf of the district, also contends that “at the time of the incident referred to in plaintiff’s complaint, the plaintiff was negligent or at fault and failed to use that degree of care and caution which a reasonably prudent person would have used under the same or similar circumstances … and that any award to the plaintiff must be reduced by the amount that the plaintiff’s negligence or fault contributed to her injuries and damages.” 

The complaint states a timely claim was filed and then rejected. 

The lawsuit states the alleged abuser exposed himself to the 14-year-old victim, then grabbed the plaintiff and pushed her up against the cabinets before dragging her to the floor and taking her pants off while she screamed for him to stop. 

The victim’s boyfriend pounded on the door while trying to find his girlfriend, which ended up stopping the assault. 

Both students reported the incident to a counselor, who brought the incident to the principal, according to the complaint. 

“The principal, among other administrators at the high school, told plaintiff they believed her and indicated that (the district) had prior knowledge of (Plum’s) propensity for and/or history of abusing students, but told plaintiff they thought it would look bad and that people would believe she encouraged it,” according to the complaint.  

The response furthered the trauma experienced by the victim, according to the complaint, who ultimately quit the band but was forced to see the defendant around campus until ultimately the district asked him to resign.  

The principal at the time was Myron Sproul, the school’s first principal. Sproul retired in 1984 after a 30-year career as an educator in the Santa Clarita Valley. He died earlier this year at age 99. 

The plaintiff has a case-management hearing set for October. 

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