San Jose Berryessa Union School District facing lawsuit from multiple sexual abuse victims of teacher Ronald Gardner

A total of five victims now accuse former Sierramont Middle School teacher Ronald Gardner of sexual abuse.

The law firm of Cerri, Boskovich & Allard filed an amended lawsuit this week in Santa Clara County Superior Court (Case No. 22CV401151) on behalf of another sexual abuse victim of Sierramont Middle School teacher Ronald Gardner. The victims in the case allege that the Berryessa Union School District in San Jose was negligent in failing to protect Sierramont Middle School students from sexual abuse.

The new victim is identified as John Doe 3 in the civil lawsuit.

The lawsuit states that Doe 3 was isolated and sexually abused by Gardner in a locked classroom during the 2001-2002 and/or the 2002-2003 school years.

The initial lawsuit: Alleged victim of accused Sierramont Middle School teacher Ronald Gardner claims abuse started when he was in the 8th grade.

The student in the initial lawsuit filed by Cerri, Boskovich & Allard was identified as John Doe in the complaint.

The lawsuit stated that John Doe was allegedly sexual abused by Sierramont Middle School teacher Ronald Gardner starting as an eighth grader in his 1997-1998 school year.

Gardner is currently facing four criminal sexual abuse charges as a result of his 2021 arrest.

The lawsuit claimed that Gardner exhibited numerous grooming behaviors preceding the abuse, including spending time with male students before and after school, driving students in his car to and from school, making inappropriate comments to and/or in front of students, and hugging students.

On at least one occasion, according to the lawsuit, a District janitor nearly caught Gardner engaging in a sexual act with plaintiff. As the janitor was about to enter Gardner’s classroom after instructional hours, Gardner scrambled to pull up his pants. The janitor then entered the classroom and observed plaintiff alone with Gardner. The janitor took no action to report his observations.

After nearly being caught, Gardner began placing a couch in front of the door and a note on the door warning that the door should not be opened because one of his lizards or birds was loose and could get out. District employees failed to question these actions by Gardner.

As a result, Gardner sexually assaulted the plaintiff, including masturbation, oral copulation and sexual intercourse states the lawsuit.

New amended lawsuit

“The abuse of all of these young boys could have been prevented had Gardner been properly supervised especially as an uncredentialed teacher,” attorney Lauren Cerri said. “Gardner was an uncredentialed teacher up until 2003, teaching with just an Emergency Permit.”

Under the law, a person re-applying for an Emergency Permit must be assigned an experienced educator to provide guidance.

Despite Gardner being investigated in 1999 for telling dirty jokes to young boys, he would go on to be selected by the Berryessa Union School District Superintendent as the recipient of an excellence in teaching award.

From 1998 to 2003, the lawsuit lays out a series of events which should have resulted in termination or closer supervision of Gardner. The events include the telling of dirty jokes to young boys including telling a boy that a muscle in his arm had been developed or enlarged by masturbation, Gardner kissing a young boy during a power outage, offering to measure the penis size of a young boy, watching a young boy urinate, and grabbing a young boy’s genitals while wrestling. Gardner was finally placed on leave in 2003 but chose to resign instead.

John Doe 3 is also now part of the criminal complaint against Gardner. The criminal case is ongoing with Gardner charged with abusing four boys, including two of the victims in this case.

More victims possible

“There are very likely more victims,” Cerri said. “I would encourage former students of Gardner to come forward. Our legal team is committed to ensuring that sexual abuse victims are fully compensated for the lifelong harm they suffer, and to ensure that schools and institutions do a better job protecting kids from sexual abuse.”

About Cerri, Boskovich & Allard

The sexual abuse legal team at Cerri, Boskovich & Allard has a national reputation and a proven record of helping survivors and their families recover from childhood sexual abuse. The firm’s $65 million jury verdict in a sexual abuse case against a public school is believed to be the largest single plaintiff verdict ever in California and the United States.


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