A civil lawsuit against California’s Benicia Unified School District details how one married teacher accused of sexually abusing students repeatedly landed jobs in new districts despite multiple accusations.

The case is the latest in a trend dubbed “passing the trash” that dates back decades involving educators who sexually abuse students, then move on to new schools to continue their heinous behavior.

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Parents of a fifth-grade girl at BUSD’s Robert Semple Elementary School filed a lawsuit in Solano County Superior Court on April 9 that alleges former teacher Matthew Shelton, 42, sexually abused the child on multiple occasions at the school in 2022, the Vallejo Sun reports.

The lawsuit comes as Shelton faces seven felony counts for lewd acts with the child and a second victim, who claims abuse by the teacher in 2018 and 2019. The felony complaint from Benicia Police follows 17 years after Shelton was acquitted of committing similar crimes while working as a teacher at Edison Elementary School in Napa, according to the Napa Valley Register.

The lawsuit argues BUSD knew or should have known Shelton was unfit to teach based on the 2007 allegations in Napa, where he was accused of molesting four 8- and 9-year-old students. Following his acquittal, Shelton worked as a “probationary teacher” in the West Contra Costa Unified School District from 2013 to 2015, before landing his full-time fifth-grade teaching gig at Robert Semple Elementary School in 2015, according to the Sun.

State records show Shelton also worked as a property clerk in Stockton in 2022, and as a substitute at BUSD in 2012. His pay and benefits for teaching fifth grade at Semple totaled $130,243.

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The lawsuit alleges Shelton sexually abused the unnamed student at Semple in the fall of 2022, and another student reported abuse in December 2022, but the district did not take action to determine if there were other victims.

The victim in the lawsuit eventually reported the alleged abuse to a principal in February 2023, the news site reports.

The fifth count of Shelton’s felony complaint alleges the “lewd and lascivious act” involved “touching crotch,” according to Inside Edition.

“It was hell. Absolute hell,” the victim’s mother told the Sun. “That’s what it’s been like this entire time.”

The lawsuit details the fallout since reporting the abuse, with “multiple attempts to take her life as a direct result of Shelton inappropriately touching and sexually abusing her.”

After learning about the previous allegations against Shelton in Napa, the parents who filed the civil lawsuit are calling for reforms, both to BUSD’s hiring practices and training to prevent abuse.

“Everything seems to be set up to protect teachers over kids,” the victim’s father told the Sun. “There is some failing either in the way the district managed the situation, or the way schools are allowed to operate under the law that did not work. Something broke down.”

Other parents expressed similar sentiments when they learned about the allegations at Semple in March.

“It’s disturbing, we drop our kids off at school every day and we want them to feel as if they’re protected and it just doesn’t feel like that right now,” a mother who didn’t want to be identified told NBC Bay Area. “It just seems like the hiring process is not what it should be for people that are dealing firsthand with our kids, our most prized possessions.”

“We have to protect our kids, we have to think of our kids first. We have to protect them over school district staff at all cost,” said the mother.

Both Shelton’s attorney and BSUD officials declined the Sun’s request for comment on the lawsuit.

“I will, however, reiterate that once concerns were brought forward last school year, we responded immediately and took appropriate action to separate this individual from employment,” Superintendent Damon Wright told the news site.

The district put Shelton on leave on Dec. 21, 2022, and contacted police, Child Protective Services, and an independent attorney to investigate the alleged abuse. Shelton did not officially resign from the district until the following June. The district did not publicly address the alleged abuse until after the Sun uncovered the allegations.

Less than a month later, he landed a new job as an assistant principal at Helms Middle School in the West Contra Costa Unified School District with an annual salary of $110,266.56, the Sun reports.

WCCUSD officials told the news site they conducted reference checks and contacted BUSD after learning about the Napa case. Wright said the district “did not provide the former employee with a positive reference” but rather “simply confirmed his dates of employment, and positions.”

It wasn’t until the father of the victim in the lawsuit contacted WCCUSD that the district confirmed Shelton’s pending felony charges with the Solano County District Attorney’s Office and placed him on leave.

Shelton’s teaching credentials remained valid for more than two weeks after the criminal charges were filed. The state eventually suspended his license on March 11.