Suspect

This is a 1998 yearbook photo of molestation suspect Garry Lee Gorgei Sr. (also identified as Gary Lee Georgi), who was a teacher in Fontana at the time. (Contributed photo by Fontana Police Department)

A lawsuit has been filed against the Fontana Unified School District in connection with a case involving a female student who was allegedly sexually molested by a teacher at a middle school in the district more than 20 years ago.

Brian Claypool of the Pasadena-based Claypool Law Firm announced on Dec. 1 that he was filing the lawsuit because the district allegedly allowed the suspect to continue to teach despite concerns that were raised about his behavior at the time.

The suspect, Gary Lee Georgi, taught in the district from 1988 to 2002, according to the Fontana Police Department, which arrested him last February following an investigation. (At the time, police identified him as Garry Lee Gorgei.)  However, the FUSD said on Dec. 1 that its records indicated that the suspect's tenure with the district ended in 1999.

Claypool alleged that the suspect sexually molested his client more than 100 times between 1997 and 1999, during her 6th and 7th grade years at Southridge Middle School. Georgi is set to stand trial soon for allegedly sexually molesting a total of five victims, Claypool said.

"The young girl’s mother reported Georgi in the middle of 7th grade, providing the school with many personal handwritten notes that Georgi had written to the young girl expressing his affinity toward her. In addition, the school nurse at the time conveyed in writing her concern to the principal that Georgi should not be allowed to teach again," Claypool said.

"Shockingly, the Fontana Unified School District demonized the sexual assault victim by making excuses for Georgi and accommodated a transfer of Georgi to another school(s) within Fontana Unified."

Claypool is demanding that the district release the names of all schools where Georgi taught from 1998 to the present day as well as all complaints lodged by other parents, students and/or other mandated reporters about Georgi’s allegedly inappropriate conduct.

The lawsuit, alleging that the FUSD "protected a suspected sexual predator," has been filed following the passage of AB 218, a bill which came into effect last January and extended the statute of limitations for victims of sexual abuse.

The alleged abuse of Claypool's client began in sixth grade with "light touching" such as rubbing her back and shoulders during class.  The abuse then progressed to digital penetration, the lawsuit alleged.  Georgi had specifically requested that the girl be assigned to his math class, the lawsuit said.

After a while, Georgi allegedly began asking the girl to visit him during the lunch hour and after school to help him with things without her mother’s written permission.  This was an "obvious red flag of Georgi’s predatory behavior," the lawsuit said.

At no time did Georgi, or anyone from the school, obtain permission from the girl's mother for her to be in Georgi’s classroom during lunch or after school, in violation of district policy, the lawsuit said.

During the girl's sixth grade year, the abuse took place between two to three times a week, on average, the lawsuit said.

"FUSD employees knew or should have known of Georgi’s criminal conduct being perpetrated against minor children, including Plaintiff," the lawsuit alleged.  "At no time while the abuse was taking place, did any FUSD employees supervise Georgi or monitor his classroom."

Midway through the seventh grade, the girl's mother found letters Georgi had been writing her since the sixth grade, detailing his affection toward her, the lawsuit said.

The mother met with the man who was the school's principal at the time to notify him of the letters, the lawsuit said.  The principal allegedly downplayed the letters, and then spoke with the girl alone, telling her that Georgi was a nice man and was dealing with personal issues with his daughter, he lawsuit said.  The principal minimized the letters, failed to conduct an adequate investigation into the letters and then wrongfully transferred Georgi to another school, the lawsuit alleged.

"The transfer was made despite all the evidence that Georgi was a sexual predator," the lawsuit alleged.

"When FUSD employees were made aware of Georgi’s predatory tendencies and allegations of abuse by both the school nurse and Plaintiff’s mother, they covered it up. Thereby failing to protect Plaintiff and others," the lawsuit said.

Claypool is seeking "past, present and future general damages in an amount to be determined at trial," the lawsuit said.

The district released a statement on Dec. 1 which read:

"The Fontana Unified School District is committed to fostering a positive and safe learning environment in which our students' protection is alays a top priority.  We are equally committed to transparency and open communication with our parents and community.

"This morning we were notified by the media of a legal firm's press release regarding a lawsuit surrounding the actions of a former employee whose employment, according to district records, ended in 1999.

"District officials have not yet received the lawsuit and cannot provide further comment at this time."

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