LA School District Settles Molestation Case for $5M

LOS ANGELES (CN) – Just as jury selection was about to begin, the Los Angeles School District agreed to pay $5 million to settle a case with a former student whose math teacher sexually abused her when she was in middle school.

The school district reached the settlement on Friday as pre-trial motions were set to be heard in Los Angeles County Court, according to the former student’s attorney.

In 2013, a Los Angeles County jury rejected claims that the school district was negligent in supervising Elkis Hermida, an ex-math teacher who taught at a southeast Los Angeles middle school – where in 2010 he initiated a six-month sexual relationship with a 13-year-old student referred to as S.M. in court documents.

Attorneys for the school district said S.M. had “consented” to the relationship.

The jury’s verdict resulted in a 2015 California State Legislature bill that clarified existing laws and blocked “consent” arguments in cases where an adult engaging in sexual acts with a minor is in a position of authority.

“It’s unfair that something great for the public was put on the shoulders of a 14-year-old girl,” S.M.’s attorney, Frank Perez, said in an interview.

According to the lawsuit filed by S.M.’s parents in 2011, Hermida initiated a relationship with S.M. using social media and text messages.

On three occasions, the girl’s parents said, Hermida kissed S.M. while they were alone in his classroom. He later told S.M. that he wanted to have sex with her, and the two had sex in a classroom and a local motel.

In 2011, a friend of S.M. told a teacher about the relationship, and the police arrested Hermida.

Later, Hermida pleaded no contest to one count of lewd acts upon a child. In 2011, the judge sentenced him to three years in prison.

The girl’s family sued the school district for negligent supervision. After losing at trial, they appealed.

In 2015, an appellate court granted a new trial, finding the court shouldn’t have allowed arguments that S.M. had “consented” or about her sexual history.

The $5 million settlement is the largest paid out by LAUSD to a victim of sexual abuse, according to S.M.’s attorneys.

“This young girl was abused in the classroom and victimized a second time in the courtroom,” attorney John Taylor, a partner with Taylor & Ring, said in a statement.

“After years of fighting, our client can finally close this painful chapter in her life,” Perez said.

Perez is a partner with Perez & Caballero PC.

LAUSD declined to comment.

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