South Pasadena School District Prevails in Sexual Abuse Trial
Two women alleged they suffered emotional distress from being sexually abused by a track coach at South Pasadena High School nearly a decade ago, but a jury rejected their claims.
In a suit filed in March 2016, alleging negligence and sexual harassment, an Alhambra Superior Court panel found in favor of the South Pasadena Unified School District on Wednesday. Pierre Jonas Hernandez allegedly abused both plaintiffs when they were minors.
According to the suit, SPHS Principal Janet Anderson had an obligation to monitor Hernandez and protect all students, but district lawyers argued that SPUSD was not responsible for Hernandez's actions.
According to the defense attorneys' court papers, Hernandez passed a criminal background check when he was hired, and after the girls complained, he was placed on administrative leave in April 2015 and never returned as a coach.
According to the lawsuit, Hernandez began molesting one of the plaintiffs in April 2013 and some of the incidents took place on campus, including an inappropriate touch in a locker room.
After being molested, the plaintiff began experiencing emotional difficulties, and she later realized that Hernandez's conduct was causing her mental problems.
Hernandez began abusing the second plaintiff in April 2014, and some of the misconduct also took place at the high school, according to the suit, the suit alleged.
During one on-campus encounter, Hernandez "insisted that he give Jane Doe a full body massage in an underground boys' locker room with nobody else around," the suit alleges.
According to the complaint, the second plaintiff also suffered emotional harm.
Other students, however, received massages from other coaches without complaint, according to the defense attorneys' court documents.
According to the defense attorneys' court papers, the district condones appropriate massages but disapproves of Hernandez's "intrusive and inappropriate massages" in secluded areas.
Hernandez, 33 at the time of the lawsuit, pleaded no contest to misdemeanor charges of child molestation and sexual battery against one of the plaintiffs, who was 16 at the time.
In September 2015, Alhambra Superior Court Judge Jon Takasugi sentenced Hernandez to 180 days in jail -- with electronic monitoring -- along with five years probation, and ordered him to register as a sex offender for life. Hernandez was a track coach at SPHS for about seven years.