The Los Angeles School District has agreed to pay $5 million to settle claims that it failed to supervise a former teacher who molested a student. The settlement comes on the eve of a re-trial, ordered after a change in California’s sexual assault laws.
Here’s a look.
Suits, Statutes, and Settlements
In 2010, math teacher Elkis Hermida, teaching at a southeast Los Angeles middle school, initiated a six-month sexual relationship with a 13-year-old student. After finding out, the girl’s parents sued the Los Angeles School District in 2011, claiming the district was guilty of negligent supervision. But a jury rejected those claims in 2013 after attorneys for the school district argued the child had “consented” to the relationship.
That led to substantial changes in existing statutes, blocking such consent arguments in cases where an adult engaging in sexual acts with a minor is in a position of authority. Then, in 2015, an appellate court granted a new trial, finding the original court shouldn’t have allowed the district’s consent defense or evidence about the victim’s sexual history. Jury selection was about to begin in the new trial, when the woman accepted the $5 million settlement, allegedly the largest payout the nation’s second-largest school district has ever made to a single sexual-abuse victim.
Hermida, who was 30 at the time, “groomed and manipulated” the victim, then molested her for seven months in his classroom, near campus, and in a motel. After one of the girl’s friends told another teacher about the relationship, he was arrested, pleaded no contest to one count of committing lewd acts upon a child, and was sentenced to three years in prison.