LAS UNIFIED – CASE BRIEF
Student v. Los Angeles Unified School District
Counsel for Students (15 Victims): Morgan Stewart, Ron Labriola
Decided by: Richard J. Burdge (Los Angeles Superior Court Judge)
Date of Decision: October, 2022
- Were School administers guilty of allowing wrestling coach to have direct contact with children despite having prior knowledge of allegations related to sexual abuse?
FACTS OF THE CASE:
- School’s wrestling coach was found guilty of 37 felony and 10 misdemeanor counts involving seven boys and two girls he met through the wrestling teams between 1991 to 2017.
- The appointment of this coach raised questions about school’s Student Safety Investigation Team (SSIT).
- School administers were found guilty of allowing wrestling coach to have direct contact with children despite having prior knowledge of allegations related to sexual abuse.
– School had prior knowledge of abuser’s misconduct and should have removed him from having contact with children.
– A school investigator believed that abuser was lying about a previous sexual misconduct incident, but the investigator was not permitted to relay that information to administrators who were deciding whether to permit him to return to campus or not.
– The school administration allowed abuser back on campus and he continued to sexually abuse minor students.
– All students have an “inalienable right to attend campuses which are safe, secure, and peaceful.” Cal. Const. Art. I § 28(f)(1).
– A student who is sexually harassed or abused by a teacher can bring an action for damages against the district under Title IX if the district has knowledge of, but is deliberately indifferent to the teacher’s misconduct. Gebser v. Lago Vista Independent School District, 524 U.S. 274 (1998).
– A student who has been sexually abused or harassed at school may bring a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for violation of his or her Fourteenth Amendment rights. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has held that students have a Fourteenth Amendment substantive due process right to bodily integrity, which includes the right to be free from sexual abuse by school personnel. Plumeau v. School Dist. No. 40 County of Yamhill, 130 F.3d 432, 438 (9th Cir. 1997)
– Thus, it is well established that a school district owes a duty of care to its students to protect them from sexual assaults. (See also, Virginia G v. ABC Unified School District (1993) 15 Cal.App.4th 1848, 1855-1856.)
– Virginia G. v. ABC Unified School District (1993) 15 Cal.App.4th 1848, [sexual molestation of a student by a teacher; held liability can be imposed on the district based on the negligence of its employees who were responsible for the hiring and/or supervision of the teacher if such employees knew or should have known of the teacher’s history of sexual misconduct with students under his supervision.
- Abuser is sentenced to 71 years in state prison.
- A total amount of $52 million dollars is awarded to victims collectively.
– definition of “Sexual Assault” and “Sexual Exploitation”
- (a) This article shall be known and may be cited as the Child Abuse and Neglect Reporting Act.
(b) The intent and purpose of this article is to protect children from abuse and neglect. In any investigation of suspected child abuse or neglect, all persons participating in the investigation of the case shall consider the needs of the child victim and shall do whatever is necessary to prevent psychological harm to the child victim.
- As used in this article “child” means a person under the age of 18 years.
As used in this article, “sexual abuse” means sexual assault or sexual exploitation as defined by the following:
(a) “Sexual assault” means conduct in violation of one or more of the following sections: Section 261 (rape), subdivision (d) of Section 261.5 (statutory rape), 264.1 (rape in concert), 285 (incest), 286 (sodomy), subdivision (a) or (b), or paragraph (1) of subdivision (c) of Section 288 (lewd or lascivious acts upon a child), 288a (oral copulation), 289 (sexual penetration), or 647.6 (child molestation).
(b) Conduct described as “sexual assault” includes, but is not limited to, all of the following:
(1) Any penetration, however slight, of the vagina or anal opening of one person by the penis of another person, whether or not there is the emission of semen.
(2) Any sexual contact between the genitals or anal opening of one person and the mouth or tongue of another person.
(3) Any intrusion by one person into the genitals or anal opening of another person, including the use of any object for this purpose, except that, it does not include acts performed for a valid medical purpose.
(4) The intentional touching of the genitals or intimate parts (including the breasts, genital area, groin, inner thighs, and buttocks) or the clothing covering them, of a child, or of the perpetrator by a child, for purposes of sexual arousal or gratification, except that, it does not include acts which may reasonably be construed to be normal caretaker responsibilities; interactions with, or demonstrations of affection for, the child; or acts performed for a valid medical purpose.
(5) The intentional masturbation of the perpetrator’s genitals in the presence of a child.
(c) “Sexual exploitation” refers to any of the following:
(1) Conduct involving matter depicting a minor engaged in obscene acts in violation of Section 311.2 (preparing, selling, or distributing obscene matter) or subdivision (a) of Section 311.4 (employment of minor to perform obscene acts).
(2) Any person who knowingly promotes, aids, or assists, employs, uses, persuades, induces, or coerces a child, or any person responsible for a child’s welfare, who knowingly permits or encourages a child to engage in, or assist others to engage in, prostitution or a live performance involving obscene sexual conduct, or to either pose or model alone or with others for purposes of preparing a film, photograph, negative, slide, drawing, painting, or other pictorial depiction, involving obscene sexual conduct.
For the purpose of this section, “person responsible for a child’s welfare” means a parent, guardian, foster parent, or a licensed administrator or employee of a public or private residential home, residential school, or other residential institution.
(3) Any person who depicts a child in, or who knowingly develops, duplicates, prints, or exchanges, any film, photograph, video tape, negative, or slide in which a child is engaged in an act of obscene sexual conduct, except for those activities by law enforcement and prosecution agencies and other persons described in subdivisions (c) and (e) of Section 311.3.
Penal Code §11165, et seq., Assembly Bill No. 1179, Chapter 127