Thursday, May 23, 2024

Jury Awards $5 Million to Former CHS Student, Finds District Negligent in Employing Basketball Coach Who Committed Sex Crime

Updated 03/15/2024 – In a statement today, the Coronado Unified School District confirmed that they will file post-trial motions with the court to challenge the verdict issued on March 11 in the case of Jane Doe v Coronado USD.

A San Diego jury decided in a civil suit on Monday that the Coronado Unified School District was negligent in the supervision and employment of Jordan Bucklew, a former assistant girls basketball coach who pled guilty to a felony underage sex charge involving a 17-year-old CHS basketball player.

The jury awarded the victim $5 million in damages and claimed that 90% of the fault rested with CUSD, according to Brandon Smith, the victim’s attorney. Therefore, CUSD is responsible for paying $4.5 million of the settlement.

Smith said the jury blamed the district because the CUSD athletic department didn’t follow its own policies prohibiting coaches from being alone with children. According to the original criminal complaint, the incidents took place between December 2019 and January 2020.

“The reason we brought this lawsuit against the school district is because the athletic department missed a lot of warning signs,” said Smith. “Mr. Bucklew was violating their code of conduct policies. Had they actually enforced their own policies, then they would have identified that he was not fit to be around these children.”

Randall Winet, the attorney for the district, said that the amount of the damages and the percentage CUSD was found to be at fault was excessive. He said when it comes the breakdown, the jury got it wrong.

“I’ve been practicing a long time, almost 40 years, and tried an excess of 100 cases, and this is very unusual,” said Winet. “It’s not within reason and it’s contrary to California Supreme Court decisions.”

Winet said that the intentional conduct of the perpetrator, in this case, Bucklew, should weigh more heavily than the negligible conduct of the district.

“From what the courts have told us in these types of situations is that the perpetrator should be assessed for the majority at fault,” said Winet. “Just because there’s a clever argument, doesn’t mean that the district is 90% at fault.”

However, the victim’s attorney said that, given the facts of the case, the jury found placing fault on the district to be fair.

“Ninety percent, in this circumstance, is appropriate, because if [the CUSD athletic department] had actually been enforcing their policies they would have identified something was going on well before any sexual touching occurred,” said Smith.

Maria Simon, a representative from CUSD, sent a statement via text.

“The Coronado Unified School District values every child in our care. The safety and well-being of students is our top priority,” Simon said. “CUSD leadership and legal counsel are currently considering post-trial options, and as such, cannot provide further comment at this time.”

The subject is expected to be discussed during closed session at the CUSD board meeting on March 14.

“I don’t think this is the end of the story,” said Winet.

This article was edited on March 15, 2024 with a statement from the Coronado Unified School District. 


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Christine Van Tuyl
Christine Van Tuyl
Christine was born and raised in Texas, but moved to Coronado with her family as a teen in 1993. Although initially horrified by surfers, flannels and skateboards, she ultimately grew to love all things So-Cal. A graduate of UCSD, Christine got her first writing job on the KUSI ten o’clock news while simultaneously juggling a reporter position at the San Diego Community News Group. She worked as a public relations professional, a book editor, real estate professional, and a freelance writer before eventually succumbing to motherhood in 2008.A decade later, Christine resurfaced to start the Island Girl Blog, a Coronado lifestyle blog. In addition, she writes a monthly page for Crown City Magazine. Christine loves hanging out with her husband, Ian, and their two spirited daughters, Holland and Marley, who attend Village Elementary and Coronado Middle School. When she’s not working, you’ll find her practicing yoga, spilling coffee at school drop off, meeting friends for sushi, or sailing the Bay with her family and English Bulldog, Moshi. Have news to share? Send tips, story ideas or letters to the editor to: [email protected]

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