VISTA — Witness testimony continues in the civil lawsuit against the Carlsbad Unified School District for its former elementary teacher Raymond Firth, 41, who was recently released from prison following a 2010 conviction of sexual battery against three students.Firth was originally charged with six counts of committing lewd acts upon children under the age of 14, and faced three to 18 years in prison.
He served 22 months after admitting to two felony counts of sexual battery and one count of false imprisonment relating to the molestation of three of his third-grade students while he was a teacher at Pacific Rim Elementary School.
The mother of one of the victims said in court on May 25 that she was not notified that Firth had been released from prison in early March, but ultimately found out about it and told her daughter of his release.
“She had nightmares of him coming to kill her. She immediately went to her Facebook page and took down her school and personal information,” she said.
The female victims did not know each other and were in Firth’s third-grade classes during a timeline that spanned seven years, from 2000 to 2007.
The girls involved in the lawsuit are now ages 13 and 14 and have each been diagnosed as suffering from PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), as a result of the molestations, according to court testimony.
The attorneys for the plaintiffs, David Ring and Louanne Masry, are suing the Carlsbad Unified School District because they claim the district knew of Firth’s improper interactions with female students long before the two plaintiffs were ever molested, yet little or no action was taken to curb Firth’s misconduct.
A letter written in September 2007 from the mother of one of Firth’s student’s to Torrie Norton, assistant superintendent of personnel services for the district, was shown to the jury.
The mother stated that her concerns in the letter were previously reported to teacher Jamie Cozens.
Ring read a part of that letter to Cozens, who was testifying, which stated that Firth had pulled her daughter’s chair away and made her sit on his lap and also tugged on her underwear one day as she crouched over.
Cozens had testified that she hadn’t received those complaints.
“I know I would not have dismissed that as a trivial complaint or concern,” Cozens said.
She said she only learned of those complaints after Firth had been removed from the classroom.
Cozens did say that the mother had pulled her aside in a previously, but only to discuss a concern about her daughter hanging on Firth’s hands during running club and about Firth being very playful with his students and not having appropriate boundaries.
Cozens said that she and another teacher had a conversation with Firth about the mother’s concern that same day after school.
“I recall Mr. Firth being very appreciative when we spoke to him. He thanked us,” she said.
More testimony is scheduled and expected from former Pacific Rim Elementary School Principal Stephen Ahle. Firth is also expected to testify by video, including testimony from a former student and both plaintiffs.
If the jury finds Firth and the school district liable they will then decide on the monetary amount to award to the plaintiffs.