14 January 2021| Los Angeles CBS television affiliate, KCAL9, reported yesterday that three alleged child pornography victims are suing the Southeastern California Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, the North American Division Office of Education and La Sierra Academy.

The lawsuit stems from the revelation last year that Matthew Johnson, a former counselor at La Sierra Academy, was fired from the Adventist school in Southern California when he was arrested for the alleged possession of images of minors in sex acts as well as the sale of obscene material to minors.

In addition to the alleged possession of pornographic material, Johnson was accused of secretly setting up a video recording device in a La Sierra Academy boys’ restroom to film students.

The lawsuit claimed the Adventist employers knew Johnson had been involved in what attorneys call “dangerous and inappropriate conduct with children” prior to his arrest but did not fire him or deny him access to minors.

Johnson is currently out on bail as he awaits trial.

“La Sierra Academy promises to offer its students ‘A Christ-centered Atmosphere Through Authenticity, Love and Guidance.’ Yet they failed in their most basic moral responsibility to protect vulnerable children from a serial sexual predator,” said Morgan Stewart, an attorney representing the victims.

Authorities said Johnson was in possession of over 600 images of child pornography. A number of devices were seized from his home on March 4, 2020, relating to the download and distribution of child pornography, much of it depicting prepubescent boys.

Riverside police spokesman Officer Ryan Railsback said law enforcement was confident the filming of La Sierra students was done without their knowledge and the material had not been shared by Johnson.

La Sierra Academy has about 550 students and offers grades K-12. The Adventist institution is located in Riverside, California.

Image: Matthew Johnson

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