LOS ANGELES, May 17 (UPI) — The Los Angeles school district has reached an $88 million settlement agreement over sexual-abuse lawsuits involving 30 children and their families from two elementary schools.
Eighteen students of the De La Torre Elementary school will receive $58 million, while 12 students from the Telfair Avenue Elementary school will receive $30 million. The cases are not connected but the same law firm, Manly, Stewart & Finaldi, represented victims from both schools and the cases were settled at the same time.
The lawsuits alleged the Los Angeles Unified School District did not respond seriously to initial complaint’s over the behavior of teachers Robert Pimentel and Paul Chapel III, who are both serving lengthy prison sentences after pleading no contest in molestation cases. School and district officials named in the lawsuits have repeatedly denied wrongdoing.
“We’re glad that we’re able to resolve both of these cases so we can avoid potentially painful litigation and put these cases behind us,” senior attorney for the school district Gregory McNair said, the Los Angeles Times reported. “We’re turning a corner here because we’ve resolved the last two very large cases that were involving the district.”
The abuse scandals in the Los Angeles-area schools prompted the school district to improve documentation of allegations against employees and to improve recognition and reporting of abuse through proper training. A special investigations unit was also established.
One of the lawyers for the families said the school district’s response to the sexual-abuse allegations was a serious issue, adding that the school’s reaction to the lawsuits was welcomed but long overdue.
“We feel this is an ongoing problem in LA Unified and we hope this amount of money will promote a change of heart and change of attitude when it comes to victims,” John Manly said.