Redlands middle school teacher charged with alleged sexual abuse of student – San Bernardino Sun

A Redlands middle school teacher has been criminally charged with sexually abusing a former student who has sued him and the school district for negligence.

The San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office charged Joseph Nardella, 53, with five felony counts, including one count of continuous sexual abuse of a child under the age of 14, two counts of sodomy against a person under the age of 18, and two counts of sodomy of a person under the age of 16, said district attorney’s spokeswoman Jacquelyn Rodriguez.

The alleged abuse occurred over a five-year period from 2015 to 2020, when Nardella was an eighth-grade English teacher, according to the District Attorney’s Office.

Two days after charges were filed, sheriff’s deputies arrested Nardella, for the second time, at his Highland home on Friday, June 24. He was booked at the Central Detention Center in San Bernardino and held on $500,000 bail, according to the Sheriff’s Department. Online booking logs show Nardella was released on bail shortly after 10 p.m. Saturday.

Nardella has been a seventh-grade world history teacher and eighth-grade U.S. history teacher at Clement Middle School since it opened in 1997. He served as Clement’s social studies department chair for 15 years and ran the school’s lunchtime intramural sports program. Currently, he is on administrative leave from the school district.

He was first arrested in January after sheriff’s investigators received a complaint from Nardella’s alleged victim, then 18, who claimed the teacher sexually abused him from the time he was 12, when he was a student at Clement, until he was 17.

Nardella subsequently posted bond and was released from custody, thereby delaying the filing of criminal charges and allowing prosecutors more time to build their case.

In January, Irvine attorney Morgan Stewart sued Nardella and the district on behalf of the alleged victim, claiming negligence. In May, Stewart filed a second lawsuit against Nardella and the district after another alleged victim came forward, alleging Nardella repeatedly sexually abused him in class and at Nardella’s home.

Prosecutors, however, declined to file charges against Nardella on the second alleged victim due to lack of evidence, Rodriguez said.

In a statement Monday, Stewart said he was pleased to hear about the charges being filed against Nardella.

“We believe this process will lead to his ultimate incarceration for the significant alleged crimes that he perpetrated against children within his care,” Stewart said. “Ultimately, we wish that Redlands Unified School District would take accountability for their actions and failures that led to those abuses.”

Nardella could not be reached for comment. He declined to comment in January following his first arrest.

Nardella’s criminal case and the affiliated civil litigation is the latest development in a sexual abuse scandal that has rocked the Redlands Unified School District for the past decade, prompting the district to pay out more than $41 million since 2016 to settle lawsuits filed by former students alleging they were preyed on and sexually abused by teachers.

However, no such allegations had surfaced since the district adopted a series of reforms in 2018 designed to educate administrators, teachers and staff about their responsibilities to report such abuses, school officials said.

Earlier this year, the San Bernardino County civil grand jury, following an investigation prompted by a Southern California News Group article related to the sex abuse scandal, concluded that school and district personnel still struggle with their legal duty to weed out predators within their ranks and were vague on the state’s mandated reporter law.

In April, the district began a series of parent workshops on how to recognize grooming behaviors of child sexual predators.

District spokeswoman Christine Stephens said two workshops were held in April, and the district is in the process of scheduling more in the coming year at the middle school and high school levels. She said the district continues to enhance safety protocols, policies and systems, especially pertaining to mandated reporting responsibilities.

“The district will initiate an internal investigation upon consent by the District Attorney’s Office. Any employee who failed to report as mandated will be held accountable,” Stephens said.

Nardella is not the first Clement teacher arrested for allegedly sexually abusing students. Former Clement English teacher Sean Ramiro Lopez is serving a 74-year prison sentence for sexually abusing three students, all preteen and teenage boys, from late 1999 to 2001. Stewart represented some of Lopez’s victims in civil litigation that the school district settled in September 2021 for $11 million.

In a statement Monday, the district thanked the Sheriff’s Department and District Attorney’s Office for their “prompt response in this situation” and encouraged anyone with information relevant to the case to contact the D.A.’s Office at 909-382-3800.

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