Miramonte Elementary School Parents Can Proceed with Claims for Emotional Distress

In what has been described as a “monumental victory” for students and parents alike, a judge ruled on Monday that the parents of children who were involved in the Miramonte Elementary School sex abuse scandal will be permitted to make their own claims for emotional distress. The decision will effectively allow parents to file claims alongside their children who are proceeding with similar lawsuits for emotional distress, sexual harassment, and negligence.

Trial dates for some of the students and parents have already been set, with the first to begin on April 1, 2014. It was less than 2 weeks ago that M. Berndt, a former teacher at Miramonte Elementary, pleaded no contest to charges of committing lewd acts on children. On November 15th, Berndt was sentenced to 25 years in prison for his sexual misconduct with students spanning from 2009 to 2011, as well as a few incidents which occurred in 2005. Now, dozens of families are suing the Los Angeles Unified School District, claiming that officials failed in their responsibilities to protect their children from undue harm. The school district has already paid almost $30 million and has simultaneously been saddled with approximately $2.5 million in legal fees. To date, the claims of more than 65 students and 70 parents are still unresolved.

The Los Angeles Unified School District is working hard to fight the claims that have been made against it, arguing that it is free from liability to the parents of the abused children based on a statute limiting the responsibility given to government agencies. This interpretation of the law was rejected by the court on Monday, at which time it was ruled that school districts are to be held vicariously liable for the any abuse committed by an employee.

The Senators Firm is working with a colleague to represent 30 children and 35 parents who suffered from the Miramonte Elementary School scandal, and we fully support the parents’ right to bring claims against the district for the misconduct that occurred. Our own Thomas Moore has stated that, “Deasy [the superintendent] has publicly acknowledged that harm was done to the parents and said the district is committed to resolving the claims of victims and their families, but simultaneously the district’s lawyers have aggressively tried to deny the parents their day in court.”

While the district has not relented on its stance that school officials should not be held responsible for the emotional pain of parents, the district has since made changes to its policy. Moving forward, schools in the Los Angeles Unified School District will be required to notify parents of employee removal for misconduct within 72 hours of the incident. The claims against the district are solid, and we at The Senators Firm are committed to helping our clients seek retribution for the mistreatment that they endured.

Want more information about child sexual abuse in the school system or about the Miramonte scandal in particular? Click on any of the links below to learn more:

To contact a California child sexual abuse attorney from The Senators Firm, call us at (949) 557-5800. We are available to take your call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.