Jury Holds School District Liable for $5 Million in Damages in Case of Assistant Girls Basketball Coach’s Sexual Relationship with Student

San Diego, California – A San Diego jury has ruled that the Coronado Unified School District was negligent in the employment of an assistant girls basketball coach who engaged in a sexual relationship with one of his players. The former student, who was a 17-year-old senior at the time, was awarded $5 million in damages.

The trial, which concluded last week, focused on Jordan Tyler Bucklew, who pleaded guilty to a felony count of unlawful sex with a minor in 2020. The victim filed a lawsuit in 2021, alleging negligence by the school district and sexual battery and assault by Bucklew.

According to the plaintiff’s attorney, the jury found the school district negligent in hiring, supervision, and retention of Bucklew. The jury also assigned 90 percent of the fault to the district and 10 percent to Bucklew, resulting in the district being responsible for $4.5 million in damages.

Attorney Brandon Smith expressed gratitude to the jury for holding the school district accountable and hoped that the incident would serve as a lesson for the district to protect its students in the future.

The plaintiff was unable to serve the lawsuit to Bucklew as he had moved out of state. If he had been part of the proceedings, he would have been responsible for 10 percent of the damages.

The Coronado Unified School District is currently considering its options for a potential appeal, according to a district spokesperson. The district emphasizes that the safety and well-being of its students are its top priority.

Randall Winet, the attorney representing the district, expressed surprise at the verdict, stating that it was “highly unusual” and did not align with the evidence. He believed that the assigned damages were excessive and that the distribution of fault was contrary to the law.

In February 2020, Bucklew was arrested by Coronado police on suspicion of having a sexual relationship with a student. In December of the same year, he pleaded guilty to the felony charge and received three years of probation without being required to register as a sex offender.

Court documents revealed that Bucklew had worked as a volunteer and paid assistant girls basketball coach at the school, as well as a personal trainer and private coach. He engaged in a 55-day sexual relationship with one of the players, which came to light when a teacher heard rumors from the girl’s teammates.

The district argued that it took appropriate steps upon learning of the rumors and that there was no way they could have known about Bucklew’s actions. The plaintiff and her attorney contended that Bucklew used his position to groom her and that others at the school should have been aware of the inappropriate relationship.

The plaintiff’s attorney stated that the district betrayed the trust placed in them and set in motion events that changed their lives forever.

The jury’s decision holds the Coronado Unified School District accountable for the negligence in employing Bucklew and sends a message about the need to prioritize student safety in educational institutions.