A former teacher currently serving 80 years to life in state prison on sexual abuse charges has been sued along with his wife and Long Beach Unified by seven plaintiffs who allege they were molested by the teacher with the help of his spouse, who also taught in the school district.

Mark Anthony Santo, 54, was convicted June 5 in Long Beach Superior Court of two counts of lewd acts on a child under 14 and one count each of forcible sexual penetration, forcible oral copulation, assault with intent to commit forcible oral copulation and assault with intent to commit forcible penetration — the latter two of which were vacated because they involved the same conduct as the more serious charges.

“You are a predator Mr. Santo,”  Judge Laura Laesecke said during his Oct. 17 sentencing.

The Los Angeles Superior Court lawsuit alleges sexual abuse and battery, sex trafficking, negligence, conspiracy and public entity liability for failure to perform a mandatory duty. The plaintiffs seek unspecified compensatory damages against the district and punitive damages against both Santo and his wife, Jennifer Santo.

“This action seeks to vindicate the rights of several young women who were sexually abused, molested and sexually harassed at the hands of former … teacher Mark Anthony Santo,” the suit filed Wednesday states.

An LBUSD representative issued a statement Sunday regarding the lawsuit.

“We are currently not commenting on this pending litigation,” the statement read. “However, the safety and well-being of all students remains our top priority.”

The plaintiffs attended Lindbergh Middle School and/or Jordan High School, the suit states. Jennifer Santo, also an LBUSD teacher, “trafficked as well as aided and abetted” the sexual abuse and harassment by her husband, the suit alleges.

The LBUSD represented to the public, the plaintiffs and their families that Santo and his wife were “highly qualified teachers, educators, mentors and counselors” worthy of the public’s trust, the suit states.

The district did not take sufficient steps to make the school environment safe for the plaintiffs so they could have avoided Mark Santo’s sexual misconduct with his wife’s assistance, the suit states.

“Instead, (the LBUSD) ignored and concealed the sexual abuse of plaintiffs and others by Mark Santo that had already occurred,” the suit states.

Among the red flags for the district were Mark Santo’s electronic communication with students in which he sent lewd messages, his ability to seclude pupils in private areas and his sitting and lying down with young females on a couch in his classroom, the suit states.

Mark Santo groomed one Lindbergh plaintiff by talking to her about private matters such as her family and personal life, hugging her, calling her his daughter and telling her that “if it were up to him, he would give her a better life,” according to the suit.

Mark Santo gave the girl a passing grade even though she did not complete her work, failed examinations and did not participate in class, the suit states.

During his criminal trial, Mark Santo said his accusers were liars who took advantage of his kindness as a caring teacher.

Another plaintiff alleges she was groomed for abuse by Jennifer Santo, then a Rogers Middle School teacher, by also speaking with her about private matters as well as driving her to the Santo home, where the plaintiff met Mark Santo and was sexually abused from 2014-17, the suit states.

Mark Santo was initially charged in May 2020 with committing a lewd act at his home in La Mirada in 2015 with a 13-year-old girl who was a family friend. The District Attorney’s Office subsequently added charges involving the other two victims.

The prosecution alleged that Mark Santo inappropriately touched one of his students at Lindbergh School during the 2012-13 school year and forced oral sex in 2018 on an 18-year-old woman who had been one of his students in the seventh grade.

Mark Santo maintained the sexual act with the 18-year-old former student was consensual. When he admitted the encounter to Long Beach school officials in 2018, he was allowed to quietly resign and get a new job teaching students with disabilities at an Orange County community college district, according to records obtained by the Long Beach Post.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated with a statement from the LBUSD.