Third Rialto educator charged with failing to report suspected sexual abuse – San Bernardino Sun

A counselor at Wilmer Amina Carter High School in Rialto has been criminally charged for failing to alert police to allegations of sexual assault against a student, making her the third defendant charged in the case.

Counselor Lindsay Morton now faces charges along with Assistant Principals David Shenhan Yang and Natasha Harris, who were arrested in February by Rialto police for allegedly violating the state’s mandated reporter law, which requires educators and others to report suspected child abuse to police or child welfare authorities.

Authorities allege all three failed to report sexual abuse allegations against a 17-year-old male student at the school, who now faces criminal charges for the alleged offenses in Juvenile Court.

The misdemeanor prosecutions mark the first time in San Bernardino County history that public school officials have been criminally charged for mandated reporter violations, District Attorney Jason Anderson said.

Wilmer Amina Carter High School in Rialto is seen here in this file photo from Dec. 8, 2015. (Micah Escamilla/Fontana News Room)

Additionally, Harris, who also goes by the surname Harris-Dawson, and Yang were each charged with a felony count of child abuse under circumstances or conditions likely to cause great bodily injury or death.

Yang and Harris are charged with failing to report the allegations made by three female students, which authorities said allowed the abuse to continue.

About a week after the arrests of Yang and Harris, police learned that one of the alleged victims had initially reported the offending student to Morton, claiming he had touched her inappropriately. Morton also failed to report it to police, Rialto Police Chief Mark Kling said in a statement.

The San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office charged Morton, 42, with one misdemeanor count of failure of a mandated reporter to report child abuse or neglect on March 7, court records show. Kling said Morton was neither arrested nor cited. Instead, detectives referred the additional details of their investigation to the District Attorney’s Office, which filed the charge.

Morton, Yang and Harris are scheduled to next appear in Rancho Cucamonga Superior Court on June 23 for a pretrial hearing before Judge Michael R. Libutti.

Kling said the charges against Morton concluded his department’s investigation. “There is no further investigation at this time by Rialto PD,” he said in his statement.

Reached by telephone Monday, Morton’s attorney, Brady Clay Schwartz, declined to comment.

Rialto Unified School District hired Morton in 2018, and she has served as a counselor at Carter High School since then, district spokeswoman Syeda Jafri said. She said Morton remains on paid administrative leave but would not comment further, citing the ongoing administrative investigation.

On Thursday, May 19, attorney Michael Alder filed a lawsuit in San Bernardino Superior Court on behalf of one of the alleged victims, now 16, alleging the girl was “sexually, physically and verbally assaulted and attacked” at the school by a 17-year-old male student on Nov. 5, 2021, when the girl was 15 years old.

The girl reported the incident to Yang on Nov. 8, according to the lawsuit. After making the student fill out a formal written statement, Yang called Harris into his office and asked the girl to wait outside a moment.

“As defendant Natasha Harris walked out of defendant David Shenhan Yang’s office, she stated ‘they are just boys’ and she ‘can’t know more, (she’s) not going to do this,’ ” according to the lawsuit.

Harris, the lawsuit states, asked the girl if she said “no” loudly enough to her alleged assailant, how many times she said “no” and asked the girl if “she was seeking attention.”

Yang told the girl they would speak to the boy. But for months afterward, the problems continued.

From Nov 8 to Feb. 16, 2022, the 17-year-old student “continued to make lewd and suggestive sexual comments to and towards plaintiff,” the lawsuit alleges.

Things came to a head on Feb. 16, when the boy walked into a class he had with the girl and said something to her that made her cry. When the teacher pulled the girl outside to see what was wrong, she recounted what had occurred in the months prior. The teacher then instructed her to report it again, this time to Assistant Principal Johanna Cuellar, the lawsuit states.

Cuellar called the girl’s mother and informed her what happened. Furious, the girl’s mother reported it to Rialto police, which launched the criminal investigation leading to the arrests of Harris and Yang, and the subsequent charges against Morton.

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