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$1.25 million settlement reached in lawsuits involving former Nipomo High wrestling coach, school district

Posted at 2:06 PM, Dec 07, 2020

A $1.25 million settlement has been reached involving lawsuits filed against the Lucia Mar Unified School District and a former Nipomo High School girls’ wresting coach.

One of the lawsuits, filed last year on behalf of three teens who were students at Nipomo High School and members of the girls’ wrestling team, accused the district and Justin Magdaleno of negligent hiring, breach of mandatory duty, sexual harassment, sexual battery, battery, assault, and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

The lawsuit claimed the girls witnessed Magdaleno "engage in a predatory pattern of abusing and sexually harassing students on the girls' wrestling team as well as students in his classes on a near daily basis on campus."

Some of Magdaleno's conduct is described in the lawsuit as slapping girls' buttocks, commenting on girls' buttocks, giving the female wrestlers nicknames mocking their body parts, using excessive force in demonstrating wrestling moves, lingering in touching girls' breasts and/or vaginal areas after demonstrating wrestling moves, and swearing at and threatening the wrestling team members.

According to the lawsuit, one of the plaintiffs complained about Magdaleno's behavior to the school's assistant principal in 2016. But it wasn't until several other girls went to the principal with complaints against Magdaleno in October 2017, that the school district placed Magdaleno on leave.

The San Luis Obispo County Sheriff's Office conducted an investigation into Magdaleno and in April 2018, recommended charges of lewd acts with a minor and annoying or molesting a child to the San Luis Obispo County District Attorney's Office. However, the DA's office said it decided not to file charges against Magdaleno because "the evidence was insufficient to establish criminal conduct beyond a reasonable doubt."

The school district reportedly conducted its own investigation and in June 2018, entered into an agreement with Magdaleno for his resignation. As part of that agreement, Magdaleno was paid $31,812 in wages. The agreement included no admission of fault or wrongdoing by either party, but Magdaleno was barred from any future positions within the Lucia Mar Unified School District.

The lawsuit involving the three girls claimed that even after Magdaleno was no longer working at Nipomo High School, the plaintiffs continued to be bullied by other students and school administrators. One of the plaintiffs complained to a school administrator about the bullying, but the lawsuit says nothing was done.

The plaintiffs, represented by Gloria Allred, who is also representing the plaintiffs in two other lawsuits filed against Magdaleno and the school district in March 2019 and August 2018, were asking for a jury trial before the settlement in the case was reached on Aug. 28 of this year.

“Our five clients sought to hold the school district and Magdaleno accountable for their actions and did so by filing and pursuing these lawsuits for years. My partner, Christina Cheung, my associate, Byron Lau, and I are proud to have represented our brave clients in their fight for justice and hope that the meaningful settlements that they received will help them move forward to a bright future,” Allred told KSBY News.

The district said, “The Lucia Mar Unified School District confirms that its insurance carrier has negotiated and agreed to a settlement of claims involving this case. The District has appropriately addressed the issues, the matter has now been resolved in its entirety and the case is now closed.”

Magdaleno has denied the allegations against him. In September 2018, he filed a response in court to the first lawsuit, requesting that the plaintiff pay for all court costs and asking that the lawsuit be dismissed.