A California teacher is facing a mounting legal battle as eight young girls, some as young as 6, have come forward with allegations of sexual abuse in three separate lawsuits filed against the Benicia Unified School District. The lawsuits seek compensation for personal injuries stemming from alleged childhood sexual abuse and assault.

42-Year-old Matthew Joseph Shelton allegedly molested 8 students in classroom and on field trips

The accused, 42-year-old Matthew Joseph Shelton, a fifth-grade teacher at Robert Semple Elementary School in Benicia, was initially charged on Feb. 23 with five felony counts of lewd acts with a child under 14, according to a felony complaint obtained by Inside Edition Digital. Two additional counts were later added after police interviewed another alleged victim. Two sources with knowledge of the case told the Vallejo Sun that the charges involved Shelton’s interactions with a student at the school.

Shelton had been employed at Robert Semple since 2015. Salary records also indicate that he worked as a substitute teacher for the district prior to that. A Benicia school district official confirmed that as of the 2023-24 school year, Shelton no longer works for the district. His next court appearance is scheduled for March 11.

Shockingly, this isn’t the first time Shelton has faced such accusations. The Vallejo Sun reported that he was previously employed by the Napa Unified School District, where he was hired in 2006 to teach third grade at Phillips Edison Elementary School. The following year, he was arrested for alleged inappropriate touching of two 8-year-old and two 9-year-old female students, according to the Napa Valley Register.

After a 6-day trial in 2008, a jury acquitted Shelton of six counts of child molestation. The Napa Valley Register reported that three girls testified at the trial, but Shelton’s attorney argued that their stories were fabricated and inconsistent with one another. Post-trial, the attorney stated that Shelton’s teaching credential had been suspended and he would seek to have it reinstated.

Despite this history, California state records show that Shelton began substitute teaching in the Benicia Unified District in 2012, eventually securing a full-time position in 2015. The lawsuits allege that Shelton’s misconduct occurred both in his classroom and during school-sponsored field trips.

The first lawsuit, filed on April 9 by a fifth-grade student, claims she reported abuse allegations to the school’s principal in February. The suit also alleges that another student made a similar report months earlier, but the school’s response was insufficient. Subsequently, four more students filed a joint lawsuit on April 24, followed by a fifth student filing her own lawsuit five days later.

The lawsuit filed by the four Jane Does alleges that Shelton sexually abused a 6-year-old student during the 2015-2016 school year, and multiple students while chaperoning the school’s annual overnight camping trip for fifth-grade students in 2022. Shelton is also a named defendant in that lawsuit.

The fifth and sixth Jane Doe allege in their separately filed lawsuits that Shelton sexually abused them on a school field trip or in his classroom. Shelton is not a named defendant in these two lawsuits.

Spencer Lucas, the attorney representing one of the Jane Doe plaintiffs, told Inside Edition Digital that the school district “breached their duty to warn this family about Shelton.” Lucas argues that either the district knew about the previous allegations against Shelton or their vetting process was so flawed that they overlooked a man who had been accused, and then acquitted, of molesting four young girls in a previous school district.

Lucas also noted that parents were only informed of the allegations after Shelton’s arrest was made public by the media. In response, the district has placed the elementary school’s principal, Christina Moore, on paid administrative leave. Superintendent Damon Wright stated in a letter to parents that this decision was “made in accordance with our organization’s policies and procedures” and is “essential to ensure the integrity of our school community and uphold our commitment to transparency and accountability.”

Meanwhile, Shelton is taking legal action of his own, filing lawsuits against the Napa Valley School District to block the release of records from his time there. He has also pleaded not guilty to all criminal charges, which stem from incidents allegedly occurring between September and December 2022, and during the 2018-2019 school year.

According to the complaint, the first four counts allege that Shelton “did willfully, unlawfully and lewdly commit a lascivious act upon and with the body and certain parts of members thereof of [redacted] a child, under the age of fourteen years, with the intent of arousing, appealing to, and gratifying the lust, passions, and sexual desires of the said defendant, and the said child.” The fifth count alleges that he “did willfully, unlawfully, and lewdly commit a lewd and lascivious act to wit: touching crotch.”

The school district did not address any questions regarding Shelton directly, nor did they address Lucas’ allegations that the district must have either known about past accusations Shelton faced, or did not properly vet him before hiring him. Shelton and his lawyer did not respond to Inside Edition Digital’s request for comment.

As this case unfolds, it raises serious questions about the vetting processes in place to protect our children and the responsibilities of school districts in responding to allegations of abuse. The lawsuits not only seek justice for the alleged victims but also demand accountability from the institutions entrusted with our children’s safety.


  1. Benicia teacher charged with sexual acts with student was previously arrested in Napa
  2. California Teacher, 42, Allegedly Molested 8 Girls In Classroom and on Field Trips