The former Realm Charter School in Berkeley. File photo: Nancy Rubin

A student who attended REALM Charter School in Berkeley filed a civil lawsuit on Tuesday claiming that a former teacher repeatedly sexually assaulted her while she was in eighth grade in 2015-16 and the school failed to protect her from sexual harm. 

A criminal lawsuit stemming from the student’s accusations against teacher was dismissed in November 2019. A judge in Alameda County Superior Court issued a finding of factual innocence based on testimony that cast significant doubt on the student’s story, which means the teacher was exonerated. 

The civil suit is against the teacher and the Berkeley Unified School District. 

REALM Charter School’s two middle and high schools operated independently of BUSD from 2011 to 2019, but the school district was responsible for approving the school’s charter. In 2019, BUSD revoked REALM’s charter due to financial mismanagement and consistently poor academic outcomes, among other reasons. 

In the civil suit, filed in Alameda County Superior Court, the now 19-year-old student accuses the teacher of raping her and coercing her into performing oral sex on him on a nearly daily basis on school grounds. 

The student regularly went to the teacher’s classroom after school for homework help, and the suit says she was abused in a copy room across the hall.

She first told the principal of REALM Charter School she’d been abused in October 2018, two years after the alleged abuse occurred. The complaint eventually went to Child Protective Services and then to criminal court. 

Judge James Cramer dismissed the case after evidence failed to show there was a copy machine or copy room near the accused teacher’s classroom. Testimony presented in court showed that the room had been converted into an office occupied by special education staff. The former student told Berkeleyside that the testimony was a lie.

“I am trying to move forward, but I get more and more angry,” the student said in an interview with Berkeleyside. “There was no accountability whatsoever.”  

She claims in the lawsuit that she became pregnant in winter 2016 and had a miscarriage several months later. She said she told no one about her pregnancy at the time and never saw a doctor. 

She claims the teacher had a “pattern and practice of engaging in inappropriate behavior and sexual activity with female students,” which the school failed to stop. Through the attorney who represented him in the criminal case, the teacher declined to comment for this story.

The student’s lawyer, John Winer, whose firm Winer, Burritt and Scott, LLP also filed a lawsuit against former Berkeley High teacher Matthew Bissell last year, said his firm had taken the case because “it appears a grave injustice was done within the criminal system.”  

The student attended REALM Charter from 2013 to 2016 and again from 2017 until 2019, when the school closed.

Ally Markovich, who covers the school beat for Berkeleyside, is a former high school English teacher. Her work has appeared in The Oaklandside, The New York Times, Huffington Post and Washington Post,...