School district, parents settle 2005 lawsuit

GROVELAND -- The Big Oak Flat-Groveland Unified School District has settled a lawsuit brought by a Groveland family that contends their son was molested by his classmates in an elementary school bathroom in 2004.

The settlement's financial terms have been sealed by Tuolumne County Superior Court Judge James A. Boscoe.

In the lawsuit, Jill and Kevin Saitta of Groveland contend that their son, then in second grade, was sexually assaulted in a Tenaya Elementary School bathroom on two occasions by four other students: two second-graders and two eighth-graders. During one of the reported assaults, the younger boys held the Saittas' son down and sexually assaulted him with a stick while an older boy held the bathroom door closed so no one could enter or leave, according to Tuolumne County court documents filed by the Saittas and their attorney, Daniel Geraldi of San Ramon.

Saitta said embarrassment and fear kept her son from telling anyone what had happened until a month later, when pain and physical problems intensified. The boy later underwent reconstructive surgery on his penis to fix problems caused by the assaults, primarily damage to his urethra caused by the stick, and has needed to see numerous medical and psychological specialists during the past three years, Saitta said.

The assaults were reported to the Tuolumne County Sheriff's Department on Nov. 28, 2004. Sheriff's investigators interviewed more than 20 people, but conflicting statements left detectives without a clear sense of what happened in the bathroom. Ultimately, District Attorney Donald Segerstrom decided not to file criminal charges.

The Saitta family filed the lawsuit in April 2005, naming the students, their parents and numerous other defendants, including the school district, its former Superintendent John Triolo and former Tenaya Principal Don Moore. The original charges alleged negligence, negligent training and-or supervision, fraud, assault and negligent infliction of emotional distress.

During court hearings, Bob Johnson, the school district's defense attorney, said the boy gave conflicting statements every time he testified about the alleged assaults. Johnson unsuccessfully argued to have the case dismissed by Boscoe.

District Superintendent Mari Brabbin and Johnson did not return calls or e-mails seeking comment Friday.

Jill Saitta said last week's settlement brought an end to a three-year ordeal that she described as grueling.

"I would give anything in the world to change what happened that day, but that's not possible," she said. "We're at peace that this is finally over and our son didn't have to be put on the stand. Everything's been hard enough on him already. I'm just happy he can get back to being a child now. He just wants to move on with life."

Bee staff writer Ty Phillips can be reached at tphillips@modbee.com or 874-5716.