VISTA — Victims of child sex abuse by former a Pacific Rim Elementary School teacher are suing the convicted pedophile Raymond Firth, 41, and the Carlsbad Unified School District in a civil trial, which began at the Vista courthouse on May 21.
In April 2010 Firth plead guilty to two felony counts of sexual battery and one count of false imprisonment relating to the molestation of three of his third-grade students, and was sentenced to almost four years in prison.
Parents of two of the three girls Firth was convicted of molesting have filed the lawsuit with Los Angeles-based attorney David Ring; all three girls are expected to testify during the trial, including about two-dozen witnesses.
During his opening statements Ring showed a picture of one of the victims on her first day of school in the third grade; she was 8 years old.
“A new school year, a new girl,” Ring said.
Ring showed the jury a timeline of events that spanned a decade beginning in 2000 when Firth began teaching at Pacific Rim Elementary, ending with his prison sentence in 2010.
Firth was hired on the recommendation of Pacific Rim’s then-Principal Stephen Ahle, who was Firth’s student teacher.
Ahle, who is now the principal at Poinsettia Elementary, was the principal at Pacific Rim throughout Firth’s employment, Ring said.
According to the timeline, the first report of sexual abuse occurred during the 2000-01 school year.
The following year, a mother complained to Ahle about Firth holding hands with his female students and having “excessive and unusual interactions” with them, but Ahle did nothing, Ring said.
The timeline shows several complaints made to Ahle from parents and others, over a seven-year period, which included multiple reports of female students sitting on Firth’s lap, and one parent reporting that Firth once tugged on her daughter’s underwear while she crouched over.
He said the school district has boundaries in place, which Firth repeatedly violated and that should have been grounds for counseling after the first violation.
But the boundaries were never enforced, Ring said, and discipline was never instituted against Firth; his behavior continued for years.
In 2007, police intervened, removing Firth from the classroom following an allegation that Firth had fondled a student.
The school district told the victim and her mother to “keep quiet about the incident,” Ring said to the jurors.
Paul Carelli, the school district’s attorney told jurors to expect a long case and a lot of witnesses.
He said Ahle would take the stand and tell his side of the story, adding that when Ahle found out Firth was arrested for the allegations he wanted to vomit.
“You’re going to hear a lot; that hindsight is 20-20. We now know how this movie ends,” Carelli said.
Carelli explained that people working at the school during that time did not know what was going on. Firth, Carelli said, was described as a popular teacher who was kind, a gentleman and said all the right things.
“They did not know that this guy was a predator, I can assure you,” he said.