According to CBS News, a student's aide has been arrested after being accused of sexually assaulting a student at Westminster High School located at 14325 Goldenwest St, Westminster, CA 92683.
Westminster police arrested 22-year-old Zackary Joseph Valenzuela on March 16, 2022. Valenzuela, who works at the high school, is accused of grooming the 16-year-old girl before sexually assaulting her at this home. He allegedly interacted with the girl over social media and text chatting, according to the police investigation. Valenzuela is reported to have driven her to get ice cream and to parks where he allegedly kissed and fondled her. According to police, Valenzuela eventually lured the girl to his house, where he had sexual contact with her in his bedroom.
He is currently out on bail but is facing charges, including unlawful sexual intercourse and molesting a child under 18.
Bobby Thompson, a Legal Herald attorney contributor, is an experienced school sexual assault attorney in California. Bobby represents victims and their families in civil litigation. During a recent discussion, he shared some information about what legal options are available to victims sexually assaulted by a school employee such as a student's aide.
"In recent news, we have heard reports of how widespread school sexual abuse is across the nation. Too often, predators are taking jobs within schools, allowing them direct access to students. Teachers, coaches, and even student aides are positions that award them power and trust from both students and their parents. Schools and school officials have a legal responsibility to ensure that their staff is thoroughly vetted in order to reasonably protect the children in their care. Schools should take all reasonable steps to minimize and prevent sexual abuse on their campus. Implementing a level of security measures such as video surveillance cameras and patrolling security agents on the premises can help reduce the risk. In addition, schools must do extensive background checks to prevent predators from gaining employment on the campus in the first place. Failure to offer ample security measures could cause a school to be held liable.
"If a school employee is arrested or accused of sexually abusing a student, criminal and civil options may be available for victims. Criminal charges will help to ensure the perpetrator is sentenced. However, it's critical to investigate the school's safety procedures to determine if a third party could be held liable. A school may be held accountable if it fails to offer proper safety precautions to prevent abuse. If past reports of sexual conduct were reported but ignored, the school or school district could be deemed negligent. Victims of sexual assault by a school employee should seek legal guidance from an experienced school sexual assault attorney."