At Elite Private High School, Teacher Isolated And Groomed Student for Years While Admin Did Nothing
Lawsuit charges Pasadena-area Flintridge Preparatory School with failure to prevent widely known, years-long grooming and sexual assault of a minor student on campus.
PASADENA, CA—A past student of elite Flintridge Preparatory School in La Cañada Flintridge announced her case against the school for its negligence and failure to prevent her years-long sexual abuse and sexual harassment by her Latin teacher during and after her time at the school.
The student filed her case in Los Angeles Superior Court under the name Jane Doe in order to protect her privacy. The grooming and abuse began in 2013 and lasted past her graduation and into the beginning of her college career, only ending when the COVID lockdowns forced an interruption in the ongoing sexual abuse.
“For the past 10 years, I have been forced to hold a secret, and with it, immense fear, pain, and grief,” said Jane Doe. “Had my high school, Flintridge Preparatory School, acted, I would not have had to carry that secret. My teacher stole part of my childhood, and my school failed to keep me safe.”
“Flintridge Prep made a choice to focus singularly on becoming the number one high school in California and sacrificed the health and safety of its students to make that happen,” said attorney Randy Renick of Hadsell Stormer Renick & Dai LLP. “It ignored anything that got in the way of that goal, including the widely known fact that a teacher was sexually harassing and grooming a student on and off campus.”
Flintridge Latin teacher Edward ‘Toby’ Wagstaff began focusing his attention on Jane Doe during her sophomore year, when she was 15 years old, and he was 31.
The complaint describes how Wagstaff used individualized attention to groom Jane Doe. He told her she was special, mature for her age and compared to her classmates.
He requested that she keep in touch with him out of school, and began to email her obsessively, while at school he brought her to his classroom alone for hours at a time.
“He sent me a song and asked me if I knew what it was about," said Jane Doe. “When I said that I didn’t, he explained that it was about masturbation. It made me feel constantly anxious that I was supposed to know more than I did, and I kept asking myself ‘How am I supposed to keep up with this man?’”
The grooming escalated at the end of Jane Doe’s junior year. Wagstaff started attending the same physical therapist as Jane Doe, and would watch her in therapy sessions. In her senior year, Wagstaff told her that he considered them to be in a relationship and that they would figure out the next steps of this relationship once she graduated. This same year, Wagstaff began showing Jane Doe sexually explicit films, would touch her buttocks in public and private and make it so that they would be sitting next to each other at school events.
During this time faculty, staff and students made comments to and about Jane Doe’s relationship with her teacher. There were no training systems or protocols in place for this type of situation. No one put a stop to it. One administrator attempted to complain about the relationship but their concerns were dismissed by school leadership.
Flintridge Prep even made efforts to conceal the grooming by refusing to print a photo in the school yearbook of a club that Jane Doe and Wagstaff ran together, but they did not report it or seek to end it.
As a result of this abuse, Jane Doe has suffered from complex post-traumatic stress disorder, panic attacks, shame, guilt and humiliation.
“Flintridge Prep had a duty of care to Jane Doe, and a duty to instruct its faculty and staff to identify and report grooming behaviors, sexual harassment, or sexual abuse by teachers and other school employees,” said Sarah Cayer of Hadsell Stormer Renick & Dai LLP. “Every teacher at this school was a mandated reporter under the Child Abuse Neglect and Reporting Act. This school failed its legal and moral responsibility and allowed childhood sexual assault to proceed unchecked for years.”
On November 12, 2023, following the filing of the lawsuit, Flintridge Preparatory School sent an email to its school community claiming that they took immediate action. This email misrepresented the long time during which members of the school community knew about the abuse and harassment of Jane Doe and failed to act.
“My school took action years after they knew and years after they should have acted,” said Jane Doe. “At the time, adults commented to me about hanging around with this teacher that made me feel like I was in the wrong when I was the victim of abuse. This man took me away from my friends and family, and a community watched it happen and did nothing to stop it.”