DOWNEY – A Los Angeles law firm has filed a lawsuit against the Downey Unified School District and Brandon Hitchcock, alleging the former Downey High teacher groomed a troubled female student before initiating a sexual relationship with her.
The lawsuit, filed Thursday in L.A. County Superior Court by the trial law firm Taylor & Ring, also accuses the school district of failing to report the sexual relationship to authorities.
Hitchcock, who was a girls soccer and lacrosse coach, was arrested by Downey Police last October and is currently awaiting trial.
According to the lawsuit, the girl, identified in court documents as Jane Doe, was a student in Hitchcock's 11th grade American history class during the 2013-14 school year. The lawsuit alleges that Hitchcock, who was 30 at the time, "began grooming" the 16-year-old girl, paying extra attention to her and inviting her to "hang out" in his classroom after school.
Starting in January 2014, Hitchcock began allowing the girl to sit in on his sixth period, despite her having a sixth period photojournalism class, the lawsuit alleges. It was during this time that Hitchcock allegedly began flirting with the girl, writing in an email to her that it was "hard not to miss [her] smile."
Shortly before spring break, Hitchcock and the girl exchanged telephone numbers and Hitchcock told the girl that he "liked her," according to the lawsuit. They kissed while they were alone in his classroom, the suit alleges.
According to the lawsuit, Hitchcock and the girl traveled from a dodgeball tournament at Downey High to Long Beach, where he gave her flowers and kissed her again. They then went back to his Lakewood apartment, the lawsuit states.
Hitchcock took the girl out several more times over the next few weeks, and it's during this time that he told her "I love you," according to the lawsuit.
Hitchcock and the girl began having sex around April 2014, the lawsuit alleges. The sex occurred either at Hitchcock's apartment or in his classroom, during third period when he didn't have a class or after school, the lawsuit alleges.
When the girl returned to campus in September for her senior year, Hitchcock allegedly began having sex with the girl during his fourth period class, which was now his free period.
“Brandon Hitchcock took advantage of [the girl's] fragile mental state during a vulnerable time in her life,” said attorney David Ring. “Mr. Hitchcock realized [Jane Doe's] susceptibility to emotional distress due to her age and inexperience, and intentionally coerced her to engage in unlawful sexual acts.”
In September, rumors of the sexual encounters began to circulate the campus. One student notified his mother, who "passed this information along to Downey High School administration," the lawsuit alleges.
In October 2014, Hitchcock reportedly told the girl that she has "got to lie" if questioned about their relationship. In mid-October, the girl reported the relationship to her parents, who notified Downey Police.
"DUSD's employees violated the Child Abuse and Neglect Reporting Act...," the lawsuit alleges. "They were acting within the course and scope of their employment when they violated the reporting requirements, and therefore...are vicariously liable."
Hitchcock was arrested Oct. 17 and charged with unlawful sex with a minor. The lawsuit seeks unspecified punitive damages.
DUSD released a statement Thursday afternoon: “Student safety is always our highest priority, whenever the well-being of any of our students is compromised we take swift and immediate action to protect his/her welfare. While the district would welcome an opportunity to make a statement on the substance of these claims, we are precluded by both Federal and State law to comment on a matter that involves a minor and a former employee.”