Four women say the San Diego Unified School District, under the leadership of district superintendent and Biden Education Department nominee Cindy Marten, turned a blind eye to sexual assault allegations against a teacher and implied that one woman bringing complaints was engaged in a publicity stunt.
Since Marten assumed the office of superintendent in 2013, allegations of sexual assault and misconduct have plagued the district and led to lawsuits charging misconduct. A group of former students filed a lawsuit last year claiming that Marten mishandled their allegations against a former teacher, Martin Teachworth, who is accused of sexual assault.
Now, as Marten is nominated to be the number two at the Department of Education, those young women are speaking up. Loxie Gant, one of the four women who brought the suit, told the Washington Free Beacon that the district's failure to take disciplinary action "enabled a predator." Gant met with Marten and other district officials before she filed suit to discuss allegations that Teachworth sexually harassed her in 2003.
During that meeting, Gant told the Free Beacon, Marten implied that Gant was using the meeting as a publicity stunt. "Cindy Marten turned to me and said that I wouldn't have to worry about having my name in the paper after the meeting," she said. "And I kind of just stared at her, and she said, 'You do have a lot of friends in the media.'"
If confirmed, Marten would oversee K-12 policy. Her first Senate hearing is scheduled for Wednesday morning.
Neither Marten nor the San Diego Unified School District responded to the Free Beacon's request for comment.
Gant said that she believes district officials covered up for Teachworth, the La Jolla High School physics teacher who allegedly groped her and other underage students over a three-decade period—and as recently as the 2014-2015 school year.
For years, the district claimed it had no documentation of Gant and other women's allegations against Teachworth. Under subpoena in 2019, district officials "discovered" documents in a filing cabinet in an abandoned office building that substantiated complaints against Teachworth and revealed the district did not take action against him.
Marten has opposed reopening schools for in-person learning despite scientific evidence finding low rates of coronavirus transmission in schools. San Diego Unified School District students won't return to the classroom until the second week of April.
Gant says Marten is unfit to serve in her current post, let alone the second-highest ranking position at the Education Department.
"It's a crazy double-edged sword. I am so grateful that she would be leaving us here. She has caused me personally so much distress and turmoil and it's been really hard," Gant said. "I want her gone, but not this."
Another victim in Gant's joint lawsuit, who goes by her initials M.H., claims Teachworth assaulted her during the 2014-2015 school year. She says Teachworth touched her breasts on multiple occasions and made sexual comments about her clothing. M.H. reported her assault to four district authorities, but Teachworth received no disciplinary action.
Gant reported her assault immediately to a teacher, principal, and district officials. She was made aware of a later claim from Maura Kanter, another victim mentioned in Gant's suit, when her mother, a substitute teacher in the district, overheard high school students discussing another alleged sexual assault more than a decade later. Gant decided to approach the district after hearing of that case to address sexual misconduct and was later dismissed in the meeting with Marten.
Enabling sexual abuse "starts at the top," Gant said. And while the #MeToo movement has brought change in sexual assault reporting to higher education, there has been little change in the way K-12 schools report sexual misconduct allegations.
"They all knew it was going on," Gant said. "What we've seen now, a lot of institutions have had to insanely edit their policies to be progressive in the way they handled child safety. But we haven't seen anything like that in terms of public education."
Correction: A previous version of this article said that Gant approached the district after hearing of M.H. 's allegations while her mother was substitute teaching in the district. Gant came forward after hearing of Maura Kanter's claims. The Free Beacon regrets the error.