Former Lucia Mar school bus driver admits to molesting disabled girl on his route

A former bus driver for the Lucia Mar Unified School District accepted a plea agreement Monday to serve 16 years in state prison for sexually molesting a disabled student on his route.

Arroyo Grande resident David Kenneth Lamb, who abused the then-9-year-old girl over a period of about four months, pleaded no contest Monday to two felony charges of committing lewd acts on a child.

In exchange for Lamb’s plea, remaining charges of sexual penetration of a child and sharing harmful material with intent to seduce a minor were dismissed.

Under the terms of his plea agreement, Lamb will serve eight years apiece for the two charges, and could face a fine of up to $10,000. He will have to register for life as a sex offender and faces up to about 20 years of parole supervision if and when he is released from prison.

Lamb, 50, will also have to pay a yet-to-be-determined amount of restitution to the girl, including for conduct related to the charges he was not convicted of in the case, San Luis Obispo Superior Court Judge Jacquelyn Duffy said in court.

Though both Lamb and the San Luis Obispo County District Attorney’s Office came to an agreement on Lamb’s sentence, the terms must also be accepted by Judge Matthew Guerrero, the judge assigned to the case, at an April 24 sentencing hearing.

David Ring, a Los Angeles-based attorney representing the victim’s family in a lawsuit against the school district, said by phone after learning of the plea from The Tribune that he believes the family will be “disappointed” by the sentence, but will be relieved that the now-12-year-old victim does not have to testify at Lamb’s trial.

“This is a guy who sexually abused a special-needs girl for months. ... I think he should have (received) 50 years in prison,” Ring said.

On Monday afternoon, Lucia Mar Superintendent Andy Stenson sent a statement via email saying district staff are “deeply saddened by this situation.”

“Since we first became aware of the charges against this bus driver, we cooperated closely with law enforcement as the investigation moved forward,” Stenson’s statement reads. “Please understand that student privacy, personnel, and on-going litigation prevent us from commenting further.”

Lamb was scheduled to go to trial March 25. If convicted on all original counts, he faced the possibility of life in state prison.

He’s been held at the San Luis Obispo County Jail in lieu of $100,000 bail since he was arrested June 7, 2017, following a search of his home in the 1900 block of Lyn Road in Arroyo Grande.

Charges against driver

At a February 2018 preliminary hearing, Sheriff’s Office Det. Devashish Menghrajani told a judge that the girl, who was Lamb’s sole passenger during portions of his route, was abused from about Jan. 1, 2017, to May 30, 2017.

The victim told officials that, throughout that time, Lamb showed her pornography on his cell phone, touched her sexually and exposed himself to her.

When Menghrajani interviewed Lamb on June 7, Lamb allegedly admitted that he exposed himself to the girl but denied other specific allegations and claimed the girl was retaliating against him.

The detective also testified that a district transportation supervisor conducted an internal investigation after receiving complaints from the girl’s family but cleared Lamb to return to his route, where the abuse allegedly continued.

“They didn’t believe (the alleged victim),” Menghrajani said of the school district. “(A supervisor) assumed the victim wasn’t telling the truth.”

During an April 2018 press conference, Ring and attorney Robert May released surveillance video from the bus that appears to show Lamb committing the abuse.

The attorneys say they filed the lawsuit on behalf of the victim’s family in the hopes it will encourage school districts to improve security footage on buses and more consistently report potential instances of sexual abuse.

“This could all have been prevented,” Ring said Monday.

A hearing for the family’s lawsuit is scheduled for March 26, according to court records.

Other district cases

The Lucia Mar Unified School District is facing two other ongoing lawsuits related to alleged sexual abuse or harassment by a former employee.

In August 2018, celebrity attorney Gloria Allred filed a lawsuit against the district after the county District Attorney’s Office announced it would not pursue criminal charges against a former Nipomo High School girls’ wrestling coach accused of molesting as many as 10 student athletes, despite a Sheriff’s Office recommendation to do so.

In her lawsuit filed on behalf of one student, Allred wrote that district officials did nothing to prevent ex-coach Justin Magdaleno from abusing the student over two years.

An investigation by The Tribune found that Magdaleno was allowed to resign from the district, which agreed not to share the circumstances of his separation with future prospective employers.

In September 2018, The Tribune filed a lawsuit against the district related to its withholding of records related to Magdaleno. That case is scheduled for a hearing in court Thursday.

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Matt Fountain is The San Luis Obispo Tribune’s courts and investigations reporter. A San Diego native, Fountain graduated from Cal Poly’s journalism department in 2009 and cut his teeth at the San Luis Obispo New Times before joining The Tribune as a crime and breaking news reporter in 2014.