The Spam Defense: School Officials Claim Abuse Allegations Went to Junk Folder

At some point, just about everyone has overlooked an important email thanks to the spam folder: work announcements, invoices, and that birthday party you really didn’t want to go to anyway. But allegations of sexual abuse by a high school teacher? That’s one for the books.

It happened three years ago in the Sweetwater Union High School District if its spokesperson is to be believed. After uncovering evidence that an instructor had been abusing one of his students, a volunteer for the JROTC program at Mar Vista High School sent an email to seven school district administrators. No one ever responded. That’s because the email bypassed their inboxes and went straight into the spam folder, the district would later claim.

School officials are mandated to report such abuse to Child Services. The alleged victim later sued the district. As part of a settlement, she was paid over $2 million.

It’s clear that neither the accuser nor the volunteer who reported the abuse fully buy into the spam folder story. But the seven officials — six of whom still work for the district — would have “handled it” had they known, said Assistant Principal Kevin Willard. The problem teacher, he added, was fired as soon as authorities were alerted (by the victim).

As for the email’s recipients, they get off scot-free with the spam defense. And they may have gotten away with it regardless. Prosecution for failure to report these kinds of cases is not that common.

“San Diego is not alone in its lack of prosecution of failure-to-report cases,” Voice of San Diego reports. “Other regions in California, like Los Angeles, Orange, San Bernadino [sic] and Riverside counties prosecuted fewer than a dozen of these cases between 2012 to 2017, according to the San Bernardino Sun.

“As long as that pattern persists, school districts and employees who fail to read or act on reports of child abuse, like Sweetwater Union High School District officials did in Roe’s case, won’t be held responsible.”