Former students accuse teacher of serial molestation at Folsom Cordova Unified schools

Four former students are suing an ex-teacher who spent his career at Folsom Cordova Unified School District, alleging grooming and acts of sexual abuse while they were his student. They are also suing the school district, which they say acted negligently and failed to protect its students from serial molestation taking place over the course of several decades.

The plaintiffs allege serial molestation beginning in the 1990s with the most recent case of abuse taking place in 2021 at Cordova Meadows Elementary School.

Defendant Steven Richard Kester, 78, was a full-time teacher at Folsom Cordova Unified since 1976, retiring in May 2012. He became a part of the district’s substitute teacher pool a few months later. He was arrested on suspicion of multiple felony counts of child sexual abuse in June 2021. He pleaded not guilty and is currently out on bail, according to Sacramento County court records.

The four litigants all report experiencing abuse in different time periods and range from 11 to 39 years old. The mother of the 11-year-old is suing on behalf of her daughter, who, according to the complaint, was abused from 2017 through 2021 when she was 5-9 years old.

The child, according to the complaint, reported to her family that Kester had been abusing her. She disclosed this information following an incident when he held her in a Cordova Meadows Elementary bathroom and molested her for several hours, the complaint states. This led to Kester’s eventual arrest.

The other litigants said they experienced abuse at varying times between 1998 and 2008 at Cordova High School and Folsom Middle School.

The plaintiffs allege that school administrators were notified of Kester’s inappropriate behavior and that the schools did nothing to protect his victims or the other students. The complaint says that Kester “openly groomed plaintiffs in the presence of other teachers, school officers, leaders, supervisors, agents and/or employees” and that the school district had “ample red flags and warnings that Kester presented an unreasonable risk of harm to its female youth students.”

A spokesperson at Folsom Cordova Unified said the district has not yet been served with the lawsuit and that they are unable to comment on pending litigation.

The complaint alleges that Kester was known as “Kester the molester” throughout the Cordova High student body due to his “pervasive and inappropriate touching of the female students” and also that he was known to stand outside the girls’ locker room every day.

The earliest incident in the lawsuit that dates to 1998, involves another plaintiff, who was in Kester’s PE class at Cordova High. She reported that Kester would often inappropriately touch her and fondle her breasts during class while “pretending to assist her with the course required-pull ups.” She asked to be placed into a different PE class.

Another plaintiff who attended Cordova High also reported she was groped by Kester in her PE class in full view of her classmates. When she reported this behavior to administration, she was required to stay in his PE class, where the abuse continued, the complaint reads. A fourth plaintiff also alleges she was abused in her PE class at Folsom Middle School — often being made to demonstrate the day’s activity in front of the class while Kester would inappropriately touch her in the name of “spotting” her.

The women’s lawyer said that the school should have never allowed such serial abuse to happen. They are being represented by Michael Carney, a partner at Slater Slater Schulman who specializes in sexual abuse and assault cases.

“Anytime a teacher gets arrested, convicted and proven to have committed these sort of acts on their students, there are always going to be questions as to what (the school district) could have done to prevent it,” Carney said. “When it becomes a situation where that person is a serial perpetrator that has committed multiple acts over years, the question becomes, ‘How could they have possibly allowed this to happen?’ Because there is no excuse as to how a serial child molester could offend so many times on campus.”

Carney said that the four plaintiffs of the lawsuit are not the only survivors of Kester’s who he has spoken to, and that those four are just the ones who are ready to move forward. Many adult survivors choose not to seek justice through a criminal or civil justice system for personal reasons.

In a 2021 public statement following Kester’s arrest, the district said that his employee file showed no arrest reports or disciplinary action.