Los Angeles Board of Education Settles Sexual Misconduct Cases for $25 Million
Following years of alleged sexual misconduct on the part of multiple teachers, L.A. Unified School District is hoping yesterday’s announcement of a $25 million settlement awarded to survivors of the abuse will allow for a new beginning, putting the past behind the various affected schools and providing an opportunity for closure.
The settlement is related to a litany of high-profile sex crime cases that led to a number of arrests (though not all alleged predators were convicted). But this is not the first instance of a multi-million dollar settlement over alleged sexual abuse of students from L.A. Unified.
In 2016, the district paid $88 million in settlements to 30 students at Telfair and De La Torre elementary schools. Two years prior, the district reached another settlement totaling approximately $140 million with 82 victims in the case of Miramonte Elementary School teacher, Mark Berndt. Berndt’s crimes are reported to have occurred over the course of decades. When he was finally arrested, the legal fees related to trying his case increased that payout to around $175 million (which does not include an earlier settlement for $30 million for another case against Berndt). L.A. Unified is currently engaged in litigation with their insurance companies over who is responsible for paying those exorbitant settlements
All told, the near $200 million settlement from just a few years ago eclipses this week’s $25 million settlement, but the district believes that, after instituting a number of safeguards and policies that mandate swift investigations following an abuse claim, the long saga of abuse may have finally reached its conclusion. Settlement awards vary depending on the extent of the abuse, but the largest sums are reported to be approximately $2 million per student.
Despite the district touting its new safeguards and commitment to eradicating such abuse from all of its schools, attorneys representing the victims remain skeptical.
Attorney John Manly, who represented a number of the survivors, stated that, “No one has a full account of how many children have been abused, how many cases they’ve settled.” Moreover, Manly added, “This board has made every effort to keep it secret. That is troubling. There is a culture at LAUSD that accepts this as a cost of doing business.”
In response to Manly’s statement, L.A. Unified General Counsel, David Holmquist, defended the district, asserting that:
“There is nothing more important than the safety of our students…While these settlements will not excuse the behavior of those who preyed upon these children, we are relieved that we could resolve these matters without putting the children through further litigation.”
Five former students from De La Torre Elementary in Wilmington will receive payments totaling $10 million. Four other former students of Telfair receive combined settlements totaling $8.4 million.
Tuesday’s settlement also involves alleged sexual misconduct at Vista Middle School in Panorama City, Leonis High School in Woodland Hills, and El Sereno Elementary School in El Sereno.