PSR Files Suit on Behalf of Student Sexually Abused in Benicia Unified School District

Posted on May 1, 2024

Panish | Shea | Ravipudi LLP attorneys Spencer Lucas, Matthew Freeman, and U. Sean Maneewongwathana have filed a lawsuit against the Benicia Unified School District on behalf of a female student who alleges she was sexually abused by a former teacher at Matthew Turner Elementary School. Filed in Solano County Superior Court, the lawsuit seeks to hold the school district accountable for its negligent hiring of teacher Matthew Joseph Shelton, failing to report Shelton’s sexual abuse of its students, and concealing his heinous actions to protect the District’s own reputation.


As alleged in the complaint, Jane Doe was a seven-year-old student attending Matthew Turner Elementary School where she was sexually abused by Matthew Joseph Shelton in 2019. Employed by the District as a teacher, Shelton used his position of trust and authority to groom, sexually assault, and sexually molest the young girl during unsupervised one-on-one time on the school’s campus as well as during a District-sponsored student field trip. As a result of the abuse, Jane Doe suffered physical injuries, severe emotional distress, psychological harm, and mental pain and suffering, among others damages, requiring treatment.

Jane Doe’s parents trusted Benicia Unified School District had done its duty and due diligence to ensure its teachers, including Shelton, had been vetted as someone who was safe and could be trusted with children. Not only did the District fail in its duty to take reasonable steps to protect Jane Doe and other students in their care from that danger, it put them directly on the path of an alleged predator. Shelton had a prior arrest and had been criminally charged for alleged inappropriate touching of two 8-year-old and two 9-year-old female students while teaching at Napa Valley Unified School District in 2007, leading to the suspension of his teaching credential. Following a six day trial, he was acquitted by a jury of all charges. 17 years later, Shelton is now facing numerous felony counts of lewd acts with a child under 14 in Solano County.

If you or a loved one are a survivor of sexual abuse that occurred at Benicia Unified School District, we understand the pain and trauma of sexual abuse can be overwhelming. You do not have to face it alone.

Our team of dedicated sexual abuse attorneys are here to serve you. We have spent decades fighting for survivors and have achieved some of the highest verdicts and settlements for sexual abuse in California history.

Whether you are considering hiring an attorney or have questions, please call us anytime at (310) 477-1700.


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