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Ex-Redlands teacher who sexually abused middle school students released from prison decades early

Sean Lopez's release 'sends a dangerous message' to his victims that the abuse they suffered does not matter, says the victims' attorney

Sean Ramiro Lopez. (Photo courtesy of California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation)
Sean Ramiro Lopez. (Photo courtesy of California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation)
Joe Nelson portrait by Eric Reed. 2023. (Eric Reed/For ɫ̳/SCNG)

A former Redlands middle school teacher convicted in 2005 of sexually abusing three male students and  has been released from custody and is now living in Palm Desert.

Sean Ramiro Lopez, 50, who taught at Clement Middle School from 1999 to 2002, is listed on the as “very low risk” to commit a new sexual offense. Under terms of his release, Lopez will spend the first six months of his parole in transitional housing.

Lopez was released from Mule Creek Prison in Ione on May 1, said Mary Xjimenez, spokesperson for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. She said Lopez qualified for parole under the state’s , which makes prisoners age 50 or older eligible for parole hearings if they have served 20 continuous years of their sentence. Lopez turned 50 in June 2023.

The program, enacted in 2018, previously allowed for a parole review for inmates 60 years or older who had served a minimum of 25 years of continuous incarceration. The parameters changed in 2021.

“As part of this program, Lopez participated in an elderly parole hearing. The Board of Parole Hearings found him suitable for parole at his initial suitability hearing on Dec. 14, 2023,” Xjimenez said in an email.

Gov. Gavin ɫ̳om referred the decision to the full parole board for en banc review on March 29 and the board affirmed the parole decision on April 17, Xjimenez said.

Another inmate and sentenced to 170 years in prison also is being considered for parole under the Elderly Parole Program. The parole board will consider releasing Cody Woodson Klemp, 68, from the California Institution for Men in Chino in July, according to the .

Klemp was 38 when he raped his victim, who said she is terrified Klemp will offend again and hurt her if he is released from prison.

School victims

Lopez began preying on mostly male students shortly after he was hired as an eighth-grade English teacher at Clement Middle School in September 1999. His behavior continued until the time of his arrest in February 2002.

Testimony during his trial revealed Lopez invited students to his home under the guise he was conducting a clinical trial of growth-enhancing hormones and sexually abused them.

Lopez’s they were told to ingest pills or other substances, submit to measurements of their muscles and genitals and instructed to masturbate while watching pornographic films so Lopez could extract semen from their bodies using a syringe.

During his parole hearing, Lopez told commissioners he paid his victims $80 to $100 to participate in the “genetics studies” for a weightlifting supplement he told them would grow their penis size and muscles. He told them the semen samples were needed to measure their testosterone levels.

Lopez also would regularly invite students to his classroom during passing periods and lunch and carry on sexually explicit conversations.

Failure to act

An concluded that, for years, teachers and administrators at Clement were aware of allegations by students and parents of inappropriate conduct by Lopez, but failed to take the complaints seriously and do anything about it.

In response to the investigation, long-retired Clement Middle School Principal Marilyn Kemple, 82, of Idyllwild, last year.

According to a 20-page letter to Kemple from the commission in July 2021 and obtained by the Southern California ɫ̳ Group, Lopez was reported to have had a student remove his shirt and “play with his nipples in his classroom in front of the entire class.” That same fall, a teacher warned another student to “stay away” from Lopez.

And from 2000 until the time of his arrest, several teachers and staff members witnessed Lopez driving off campus with students in his car. Additionally, Kemple repeatedly failed to return telephone calls from several parents regarding alleged sexual misconduct involving Lopez.

Parole hearing

During his parole suitability hearing in December 2023, Lopez spoke candidly about the shame and guilt he felt about his attraction to adolescent males because he knew it was wrong, according to a transcript from the hearing.

He said his victims satisfied his physical and emotional needs for intimacy and helped him cope with his loneliness and feelings of insignificance, and that he rationalized his actions by not having intercourse with them, though he did perform oral sex on two of the boys.

Because of his “distorted thinking” at the time, Lopez said, he rationalized that his behavior was acceptable “as long as I’m not having sex with them, as long as I am not physically causing any physical harm.”

He also acknowledged during the hearing that he took pictures and videos of his victims for his later sexual gratification. Lopez said he realized that the damage he did to his victims was “immeasurable.”

“At the time I did not think I was negatively impacting their lives as much as I have now over 20 years of incarceration focusing on victims of sexual abuse,” Lopez said during the hearing.

Parole commissioners noted Lopez’s progress in addressing his deviant behavior, noting that he read 40 books on the subject of pedophilia and treatment, especially , considered a “staple of adult offender treatment for two decades.” He also participated in various treatment programs to help develop empathy skills and address risky behaviors and distorted perceptions of right and wrong.

Additionally, commissioners cited Lopez’s good behavior in prison and noted that he engaged in no inappropriate sexual behavior while incarcerated, according to the hearing transcript.

The parole board also noted Lopez’s diminished physical condition in prison, including a recent hip surgery that has forced him to use a cane.

Parole board members concluded Lopez had changed enough that he no longer posed an unreasonable risk to public safety.

Lawsuits, settlements

Officials at Redlands Unified School District did not respond to a request for comment. Thus far, the district has settled five lawsuits filed by Lopez’s victims totaling $14.9 million, said attorney Morgan Stewart from the Irvine law firm Manly, Stewart & Finaldi.

Stewart, who represented the three victims Lopez was convicted of sexually abusing and three other alleged victims, has two lawsuits pending against Lopez and the district.

“The release of serial pedophile Sean Ramiro Lopez sends a dangerous message to his many victims, namely that the abuse they suffered at his hands does not matter,” Stewart said in a statement Tuesday.

Stewart and other attorneys at his firm have represented dozens of former students alleging they were sexually abused by Redlands Unified teachers in the past 25 years, including victims of former Citrus Valley High School English teacher and soccer coach who bore the child of one of her students in 2013 and had a long history of grooming and sexually abusing students at other schools she taught at, police and court records show.

District reporting failures

A  of Redlands Unified that began in 2018 and spanned more than two years revealed that the school district, for decades, frequently failed to report to authorities teachers and other employees accused of grooming and sexually abusing students.

The investigation prompted probes by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, Commission on Teacher Credentialing and the state Department of Justice.

Last month, the district  to address concerns that the district failed to respond properly to reports of sexual misconduct against students, including by employees.

Among a litany of violations detailed in a to the district by the OCR were claims that Redlands Unified failed to create or maintain sufficient records of its responses to sexual harassment complaints to demonstrate compliance with Title IX, a federal law enacted in 1972 that protects individuals from discrimination based on sex in education programs or activities that receive federal financial assistance.

Redlands Unified entered into a with the OCR to remedy its deficiencies. It did not admit to any Title IX violations, but nevertheless agreed to, among other things, ensure compliance through its Title IX coordinator and revise its Title IX policies and procedures as necessary.

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