A Fresno man is suing a former student teacher at a Clovis elementary school for allegedly sexually abusing him nearly 30 years ago.
The alleged victim, identified in the civil lawsuit as John Doe, is seeking damages for the emotional and physical abuse he suffered from his former Red Bank Elementary School sixth-grade teacher, Stacey Aprile. Also named as a defendant is Clovis Unified School District for not taking action against her, despite complaints from parents, the lawsuit states.
“It is a classic case of grooming,” said John Doe’s lawyer James Lewis of Slater Slater Schulman LLP in Los Angeles. “She took on the role of trying to be his friend and teach him things that were inappropriate.”
Aprile, who is currently a part-time faculty member in the liberal studies department at Stanislaus State in Turlock, could not be reached for comment Wednesday or Thursday.
Although the alleged crime took place in the 1993-94 school year, changes in California law allow someone who is the alleged victim of childhood sexual abuse to sue their alleged abuser, but they must do it before the victim turns 40 or within five years of discovering the abuse as an adult. John Doe is 39.
Lewis said his client realized years later that what happened to him was sexual abuse. At the time, he believed Aprile was being his friend and trying to teach him about sex.
The alleged victim went to Clovis police in 2006 to file a complaint against Aprile. The case was investigated and it was turned over to the Fresno County District Attorney’s Office for possible prosecution on a charge of lewd and lascivious acts with a minor.
The district attorney declined to file charges because the statute of limitations had expired.
In the police report, Aprile admitted to kissing the student once or twice and being alone with the student in his father’s apartment, but she denied doing anything else inappropriate. She described the kiss as something akin to a “sister kissing a brother.”
Aprile met the alleged victim when he was 12 years old and in the sixth grade at Red Bank Elementary in Clovis. She was in her early 20s and starting her teaching career.
According to the lawsuit, filed April 9 in Fresno County, Aprile began spending lots of time with the alleged victim alone on the school grounds, during recess periods and breaks. They would talk about personal things, including relationship advice, how to treat women, and how to kiss, the lawsuit states.
Several parents complained to administrators that Aprile was discussing inappropriate topics with their children, including relationships with members of the opposite sex and asking about their personal lives. Lewis said it appears nothing was done by the district.
Clovis Unified spokeswoman Kelly Avants said the district had not been served with the lawsuit.
“While I’m not able to speak to the specifics of this complaint, any allegation of abuse is acted upon immediately by the district, and investigated fully by law enforcement with our complete cooperation.”
On a school-sponsored trip to Camp Sonora, Aprile allegedly took the student during the evening to a van parked nearby. They talked and then she kissed him, the lawsuit states.
“Defendant Aprile told plaintiff that she could teach him what he should do when he was with a girl. Defendant Aprile then groped plaintiff’s genitals and said she could show him how to undo a bra,” the lawsuit states. “Defendant Aprile showed plaintiff how to unhook her bra. Defendant Aprile then directed plaintiff to place his hands on her chest underneath her bra.”
As Aprile became closer to the alleged victim, they began to see each other off campus, including at her house and his father’s apartment.
During one occasion when he was staying the night in Aprile’s spare bedroom, she asked him if he had been intimate with a girl yet.
“Plaintiff said he had kissed a girl and that was it. Aprile then told plaintiff she could teach him how to kiss and put her tongue in plaintiff’s mouth. Defendant Aprile also had plaintiff practice removing her bra with one hand while placing his other hand on her breast,” the lawsuit states.
In the police report, Aprile denies that happened but she also told investigators that she maybe was “blocking things out of her mind” that may have occurred when they were alone together. She was also questioned about several letters she wrote to John Doe over the years.
The investigating officer asked her if John Doe’s allegations against her might be documented in those letters. Her answer was, “They might be.”
This story was originally published April 23, 2021 5:00 AM.