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Benicia, CA - Matthew Joseph Shelton, Robert Semple Elementary School Accused of Child Molestation, Previously Acquitted of Similar Charges

Benicia, CA - Matthew Joseph Shelton, Robert Semple Elementary School Accused of Child Molestation, Previously Acquitted of Similar Charges
Published: June 11, 2024
By: Darla Medina
Last Updated on June 11, 2024

CA Elementary Teacher Facing Child Sex Abuse Charges, Again

A Benicia elementary school teacher who was charged last month with five felonies for alleged sexual acts with a student was previously arrested and acquitted for similar crimes in Napa more than a decade ago, according to public records and VallejoSun.

Matthew Joseph Shelton, a 42-year-old fifth-grade teacher at Robert Semple Elementary School located at 2015 E 3rd St, Benicia, CA 94510, was charged on February 23, 2024, with five felony counts of lewd acts with a child under 14 years old for incidents that allegedly occurred in 2022. These charges involved Shelton's interactions with a student at the school.

Shelton had worked at Robert Semple since 2015, and prior records show he was employed as a substitute teacher in the district before that. The Benicia school district confirmed that as of the 2023-24 school year, Shelton no longer works for the district. He is scheduled to appear in court again on March 11th.

This is not the first time Shelton has faced such allegations. In 2007, he was arrested while working as a third-grade teacher at Phillips Edison Elementary School in the Napa Unified School District. Shelton was accused of inappropriate touching of four female students, ages 8 and 9. After a 6-day trial in 2008, a jury acquitted Shelton of six counts of child molestation.

The Napa Valley Register reported at the time that three girls testified against Shelton, but his attorney argued that their stories were fabricated and inconsistent. Shelton's attorney said after the trial that his teaching credential had been suspended, but that he would seek to have it reinstated.

It remains unclear whether the Benicia school district was aware of Shelton's prior criminal case when it hired him in 2015. The district superintendent, Damon Wright, did not respond to questions about Shelton's arrest or his previous case.

In an email to district staff and parents on Tuesday, Wright addressed the recent incident without naming Shelton. He stated that the district "responded to concerns shared by parents regarding the former employee's behavior" last year, and that the employee had left the district following an investigation. Wright urged anyone with further information to contact law enforcement.

This is not the only recent case of alleged misconduct involving a Benicia school district teacher. In 2022, middle school math teacher Kurt "Mike" Sindel was arrested for inappropriate sexual communications with a student. Sindel's misdemeanor charges are still pending. Learn more about these charges, here

These developments have raised serious questions about the vetting processes used by the Benicia school district when hiring teachers, and whether more should be done to protect vulnerable students from potential predators.

Michael E. Pfau
Hi, I’m attorney Mike Pfau. I’m a lawyer here in California and if you or a loved one were injured in an accident, I’d be happy to discuss your legal options. Call me on the number below. It costs nothing, and it would be my honor to help you.
(888) 997-3792

Holding Schools Accountable for Teacher Sexual Abuse

Following the breaking news about the Benicia teacher facing new charges of lewd acts with a child, we sat down with Mike Pfau, an experienced California school sexual abuse lawyer, to discuss the legal rights and avenues for accountability in cases involving teacher-student sexual abuse.

Editor Darla Medina (DM): Thanks for speaking with us today, Mr. Pfau. As an attorney who has handled school-related sexual abuse cases, what are the typical legal options available to victims and their families in a situation like this?

Attorney Mike Pfau (MP): In cases where a teacher or other school employee sexually abuses a student, the victims and their families have several potential legal recourses. They may be able to pursue civil claims against the perpetrator as well as the school district for failing to properly vet, monitor or supervise the employee. Depending on the specifics, there could also be criminal charges brought against the abuser.

DM: What kinds of damages or compensation can victims seek in these civil cases against the school district?

MP: Victims of school sexual abuse can seek compensation for the psychological, emotional and physical harm they've suffered - things like therapy costs, lost wages, and pain and suffering damages. Importantly, they can also seek damages for the school district's negligence in allowing the abuse to occur, if it's found they knew or should have known about the employee's propensities and failed to protect the student.

DM: That's a critical point. So how do victims and families go about proving that kind of institutional negligence?

MP: It often comes down to establishing what the school district knew or should have known about the employee's history or prior red flags. Things like prior complaints, disciplinary records, or even criminal history in the employee's background - the school may be liable if they ignored or failed to properly investigate those warning signs. Victims have to show the district did not take reasonable steps to safeguard students.

DM: And what advice would you give to victims and families in a situation like the one we're seeing unfold in Benicia?

MP: My advice would be to act quickly to consult an experienced child sexual abuse attorney. Time is of the essence in preserving evidence and building a strong case. An attorney can help guide victims through the complex legal process, ensure their rights are protected, and fight to hold all responsible parties accountable. No child should ever have to endure this kind of trauma, and families deserve justice and fair compensation for the harm done.

DM: Thank you, Mr. Pfau, for providing that important perspective and advice. It's a difficult topic, but one that needs to be addressed head-on to protect vulnerable students.

MP: You're very welcome. I'm happy to shed light on these issues and provide guidance to help victims and their families navigate this challenging terrain.

Free Consultation for Victims and Families

If you or a loved one have been the victim of sexual abuse by a teacher or other school employee, time is of the essence. An experienced child sexual abuse attorney can help guide you through the legal process and fight to hold the perpetrator and negligent institutions accountable. Contact us today for a free, confidential consultation to discuss your rights and options for justice and compensation. No child should ever have to endure this kind of trauma, and we're here to ensure your voice is heard and your case is pursued to the fullest extent of the law.



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About the Author
Darla Medina
About Darla Medina
Editor: Darla is a content writer with a focus on the legal field. She covers cases of sexual abuse, drunk driving, and preventable violent crime for the Legal Herald. Contact Darla: This article was fact checked prior to publishing by this author to ensure compliance with our rigorous editorial standards. We will only use authoritative sources. Our values compel us to provide only trustworthy information. If you find an error, please contact us.
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