The Los Angeles Unified School District reportedly has agreed to pay $5 million to settle a civil lawsuit on the eve of trial in Los Angeles Superior Court involving two students who were 8-years-olds attending Telfair Elementary School in Pacoima, California when they were allegedly sexually molested by former Telfair teacher and convicted pedophile, Paul Chapel. One will receive $2 million, while the other will collect $3 million. A criminal court judge had previously sentenced Chapel to 25 years in prison in September 2012 after the former teacher pleaded no contest to committing lewd acts against seven girls and six boys.
Chapel was charged several years ago with molesting a 12 year-old boy who was a son of a friend. But, he was subsequently freed when a trial resulted in a hung jury. Nevertheless, LAUSD not only didn’t fire Chapel, the District transferred him to a new school and gave him a pay raise, according to reports.
David Holmquist, LAUSD’s chief in-house lawyer, issued a statement on behalf of the District concerning the settlement in which he said “Over the last few years, we have adopted new policies that are at work each day to ensure our students have a safe environment in which to learn and grow. These efforts have included our mandatory 72 hour notification policy; statewide leadership on legislative reform to streamline the dismissal of teachers accused of misconduct; development of a centralized data warehouse for all records and files related to misconduct; and the creation of a specialized team to investigate allegations of serious misconduct.”
Lawyers at The Senators (Ret.) Firm, LLP, quickly responded to the Telfair settlement and Holmquist’s statement. The firm is representing over a hundred plaintiffs who were victims of sexual abuse allegedly perpetrated teachers at several other LAUSD campuses, including Miramonte Elementary School downtown and George de la Torre Elementary School in Wilmington. “The Telfair cases are strikingly similar to the Miramonte and George de la Torre cases,” said Ronald Labriola, a partner at The Senators Firm who heads up the firm’s sexual abuse practice. “Telfair is just one example of many in which LAUSD has been shown to have been negligent and at times reckless in terms of hiring and monitoring its employees who come in contact with children on a daily basis,” said Labriola.
Labriola called Holmquist’s statement “patently disingenuous,” and noted that LAUSD and its lawyers have fought aggressively to prevent documents and testimony obtained by victims’ lawyers in the Miramonte cases from being made public by designating the materials as “confidential.” “How can Mr. Holmquist assure parents that LAUSD has fixed decades of ineffective child abuse policies if he is unwilling to allow the public to understand how abuse was allowed to occur in the first place?,” said Labriola, who also pointed out that a “special investigatory commission” that LAUSD Superintendent John Deasy claimed to have appointed in 2012 was never allowed to independently investigate Miramonte or any other campuses where abuse was said to have occurred. “This is a public agency that is devoid or transparency or accountability,” continued Labriola, who noted that the District didn’t settle the Telfair cases until after two years of litigation. “Based on the clear facts of the case, that’s an absurd waste of time and taxpayer resources used to pay lawyers instead of victims.,” he said. The first Miramonte trials are set to start in September.