Years after Redlands Unified School District teachers were prosecuted for assaulting their students, a middle school teacher was arrested Friday on suspicion of sexually assaulting a former student over six years.
San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department detectives arrested Joseph Michael Nardella, 53, at his Highland home one day after receiving a complaint from a former Clement Prep student, now 18, who alleges he was sexually assaulted by Nardella since he was He was 12 years old until he was 17.
Nardella is being held in San Bernardino Central Detention Center on suspicion of continued sexual abuse of a minor under the age of 14, and is on $350,000 bail, according to the sheriff’s department.
Investigators from the mayor’s “crimes against children” division said they believe there may be other Nardella victims.
Nardella’s arrest is the latest development in the sexual assault scandal that has rocked the Redlands Unified School District over the past decade, prompting the district to pay more than $41 million since 2016 to settle lawsuits by former students who allege they were sexually assaulted. Abuse by teachers.
However, such allegations have not surfaced since the district adopted a series of reforms in 2018 aimed at educating administrators, teachers and staff about their responsibilities in reporting such abuses.
School district spokeswoman Kristen Stephens did not immediately respond to questions Friday seeking to respond to Nardella’s arrest and career history in the district.
Live teacher since 1997
But according to the school district’s website, Nardella has been a seventh-grade world history teacher and eighth-grade history teacher in the United States at Clement Middle School since it opened in 1997.
On his webpage, Nardella said he has been the head of Clement’s social studies department for the past 15 years and runs the school’s in-house athletic program at lunchtime.
Nardella is not the first Clemente teacher arrested for allegedly sexually assaulting students. Clement’s former English teacher, Sean Ramiro Lopez, was arrested in February 2002 on suspicion of sexually assaulting three students, all pre-teen and teenage boys, from late 1999 to 2001.
Lopez waived his right to a jury trial, and a judge in 2006 convicted him of 60 felony counts, including indecent and indecent acts against a minor under the age of 14. Lopez was sentenced to 74 years in prison and is serving his sentence at Ion’s Creek State Prison tendencies.
Attorney Morgan Stewart, whose law firm Irvin Manley, Stewart and Vinaledi specializes in child sexual abuse cases, represented some of Lopez’s victims in a civil lawsuit that was settled in the school district in September 2021 for $11 million.
Stewart is also representing Nardella’s alleged victim, and said Friday that he plans to file a lawsuit next week against the district and Nardella.
“This arrest is not surprising given the climate of cover-up that prevailed at Clement Prep,” Stewart said in an email Friday.
In the Lopez case, Stewart presented evidence showing that Marilyn Kimball, who served as Clement’s principal when Lopez studied there from September 1999 until his arrest in 2002, was warned early in 1999 about Lopez’s inappropriate behavior by students and parents, but she It failed. Call the police and take appropriate action.
According to Stewart, Kimble called at least one student a liar and threatened to expel her for reporting Lopez.
“We are proud of this young man who came forward to report these abuses,” Stewart said Friday of Nardella’s alleged victim. He said that some of the alleged sexual abuse occurred in Clement, but that most of it occurred at Nardella’s home.
Nardella has been placed on administrative leave by the school district, according to a press release from the school’s mayor.
A year-long investigation by the Southern California News Group has revealed that for nearly two decades, the district has covered up allegations of sexual abuse of students and ordered teachers and other staff not to cooperate with police during criminal investigations.
In most cases, school district administrators were aware of what was happening and failed to take appropriate action. Commissioned reporters are professionals who have regular contact with children and are required by law to report suspected sexual abuse to the police or children’s services authorities.
Besides Lopez, among the most serious allegations against teachers are those against former Citrus Valley football coach and English teacher Laura Whitehurst, who gave birth to the daughter of one of her students, and former Redlands High School golf coach and math teacher Kevin Patrick Kirkland, who for years preyed It prepares vulnerable teenage girls for sex.
Author Scott Schwebeck contributed to this report