Twelve former students of a man convicted of sexually abusing them when he was their teacher at a Richmond school will receive a combined $10.9 million to settle a lawsuit against the school, an attorney said.
Ronald David Guinto, 38, is serving a 931-year sentence after being convicted in 2017 of molesting 15 boys when he was their teacher at Making Waves Academy in Richmond and ran a youth program.
Guinto worked at the charter school from 2011 to 2013, when he also founded a youth program called Camp Epic. Police said he used the camp as a ruse to get along with his preferred victim type, mostly boys ages 11 to 12.
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Guinto's abuse came to light in late 2013, when he was fired from Making Waves and investigated by several local law enforcement agencies. He was then briefly hired by the West Contra Costa School District, before the allegations against him were made public.
"If you hurt children, you've got to pay," Charles Bonner, a civil attorney for the boys who handled the lawsuit, told the East Bay Times. "These vulnerable children can't defend themselves. Making Waves failed to protect them."
The 12 boys sued Making Waves in 2015, alleging that the school "knew or should have known" that Guinto was dangerous, in part because he had been fired from a Boy Scouts program years earlier. The suit also alleged that Making Waves didn't prevent Guinto from using his status as a teacher there to convince parents to sign their children up at Camp Epic. He promoted the camp at the California school, and encouraged his students to sign up, according to Guinto's own testimony at his criminal trial.
School leaders at Making Waves maintain they did not know about Guinto's abuse and are quick to point out that Camp Epic was not a Making Waves-sanctioned event.
"We are pleased to have reached a settlement. While MWA had no prior knowledge of Mr. Guinto's abuse, nor was his Camp Epic program part of MWA's extracurricular activities, Mr. Guinto's conduct was reprehensible," Making Waves Academy CEO Alton Nelson said in a statement. "Our sympathies continue to go out to children and families who were impacted."