Last Wednesday, officials of the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) were confronted by parents of children in the district, all of whom voiced their dissatisfaction over never being notified about a prior sexual assault in 2010. The assault, which involved 2 students at Chatsworth’s Superior Street Elementary School first went public in May of this year when the Los Angeles Times reported that jurors awarded $1.4 million to the 4th- grade victim of sexual assault by a classmate. As reported by the Times, the victim was a special needs student who was sexually assaulted a total of 5 times by a 10-year-old male classmate.
Details of the incident were never revealed to the parents of other students at the school because of privacy concerns, which were exacerbated by the fact that the perpetrator of the sexual assault was a child. School officials remained silent about the incident all the way up until last Wednesday when they finally spoke publicly about the case at a meeting held at the elementary school. As explained by LAUSD general counsel, the policy for sexual harassment by students does not require parental notification as a means of protecting the student(s) involved. However, as of last Wednesday, the following facts involving the 2010 scandal have been revealed:
- The abuse took place during “Beyond the Bell,” an after-school program conducted at more than 600 LAUSD schools.
- The incident was immediately reported to police after a teacher observed the assault, which took place behind a shed in May of 2010.
- The child perpetrator quickly confessed to beating the female victim and forcing her to partake in sexual activities.
Currently, the policy on sexual harassment / abuse requires only that those incidents involving abuse from a teacher be publicly reported. However, several parents are in disagreement with these terms, arguing that all such incidents should be made known to parents in the district. Several members of the school board are not opposed to this idea; however, they are concerned with how to go about it without exposing the children involved.
Along with the actual incident of sexual assault, the “Beyond the Bell” program was also criticized at last week’s meeting. Some parents went to so far as to question whether or not they could vote to have the program removed from the school altogether. When the program first began, it required that two staff members be present for every youth services program – a policy that was changed to only one staff member in 2008 to accommodate budget cuts. In the meeting it was made clear that extensive improvements to the program have been made since the 2010 incident, of which include:
- More teacher training
- Reinforcement of program rules to students
- Distribution of forms explaining the program to parents
While many parents expressed their favor in keeping the program, there was an almost unanimous consensus for the implementation of more changes to improve child safety. Of the approximately 40 people who attended last week’s meeting, nearly all expressed their favor in parent notification of incidents such as that which took place in 2010. Efforts are currently being made by some parents to petition the school board for change. Only time will tell if these attempts at policy amendments will be successful.
If your child was sexually victimized at school – by a teacher or a fellow student – you can take legal action. Contact a California child sexual abuse lawyer at The Senators Firm for experienced representation. We can be reached at (949) 557-5800.