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Update: Sonora High Faces Lawsuit Over Handling Of Emerald Case

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Update at 7:55pm: In an update to the earlier story, Sonora Union High School District Superintendent Ed Pelfrey has submitted a statement to Clarke Broadcasting on behalf of the district regarding the lawsuit filed about the handling of the sexual offenses involving former girls basketball coach Amy Emerald. As noted earlier, the victim, a former, student is suing the district.

The statement reads, “As this matter is currently in litigation, the Sonora High School District is unable to respond to specific inquires about these allegations from 2011-2015. The district also respects the anonymity of the plaintiff in this case. We do wish to confirm our unwavering commitment to the health and safety of our students. That commitment never has, and never will, change. We have a zero-tolerance policy for abuse or misconduct of any kind, and we are wholly dedicated to creating and maintaining a community of students and educators free from abuse and harassment. In this matter, we will continue to participate in the litigation process in good faith.”

The first story is below:

Original story posted at 12:30pm: Sonora, CA — A former Sonora High basketball coach was sentenced to prison time in 2020 for sexual-related crimes, and the school district is facing a lawsuit over its handling of the situation.

We reported earlier that Amy Emerald, a former girls’ basketball coach and sports team coordinator at Sonora High, pleaded guilty to two felony sex-related offenses, and a misdemeanor. It stemmed from an inappropriate relationship that Emerald had with one of her players, starting shortly after the student arrived as a Freshman in 2011 and continuing throughout the student’s four years at the school. The student told her family about it, years later, in 2019, and then law enforcement was notified. A plea deal was struck, and Emerald was sentenced in late 2020 to two years and eight months in state prison.

The victim in the case has since filed a lawsuit against the Sonora High School District regarding its handling of the case. She is referred to as “Jane Doe” in the legal documents and is represented by Lewis and Llewellyn, LLP out of San Francisco.

A 27-page Public legal complaint filed in the case argues that leaders at the school improperly handled the situation and did not take needed actions when concerns were initially raised by students. The complaint specifically criticizes former Principal Todd Dearden, then Superintendent Mike McCoy, and the former Athletic Director Rick Francis. It states some district leaders first met with Emerald in October of 2013 after complaints were made about her needing more of a “professional relationship boundary” between herself and the athletes. The lawsuit also claims that there were numerous other red flags that were not taken seriously. The lawsuit states that some of the crimes carried out occurred on school property and during school-sponsored trips.

An attorney for the plaintiff, Ryan Erickson, says in a statement, “Our client’s primary reason for bringing this lawsuit has always been ensuring that what happened to her never happens again to any child in the Sonora community. After litigating this case for over two years, we have uncovered a shocking amount of evidence showing that many, high-level administrators at Sonora High School received alarming reports of the sexual abuse of our client by her basketball coach, but did nothing in response. Our client trusts the Sonora community and looks forward to her day in court, when she can publicly share what has been hidden for so many years.  She is eager to shine a light on the District’s failures and protect the future children of Sonora.”

The case is set to go to trial on July 24 in Tuolumne County Superior Court and Lewis & Llewellyn, LLP anticipates it will last about 2 ½ weeks.  The attorneys would not comment on the type of financial retribution the plaintiff is seeking from the district.

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