Experts are suggesting that the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) will be penalized in record amounts for the more than 200 pending cases related to Mark Berndt, a former teacher at Miramonte Elementary School, who has been accused of sexual abuse. Last month, a $6.9 million verdict was handed down in separate case of abuse by a former teacher, to a single victim. Settlements in the Miramonte case are expected to occur this month.
Berndt is accused of giving semen-tainted cookies and spoon-feeding semen to students in his elementary school classes. The outrage from the allegations resulted in protests by parents, and forced school officials to shut down the school and replace most of the personnel.
The lawsuits allege that the school did not protect students from Berndt, despite receiving complaints from parents.
Tuesday’s judgment centered on whether the district bore responsibility for acts committed by Forrest Stobbe, who molested a fifth-grade student at Queen Anne Place Elementary School over several months. In September 2011, Stobbe pleaded no contest to two counts of a lewd act on a child and to continuous sexual abuse of a child younger than 14. He is currently serving a 16-year prison sentence.
Attorneys for the school system insisted that district staff could not have known what Stobbe was doing. But the plaintiffs argued there were abundant warning signs, including when a girl in Stobbe’s class said the teacher had stroked her hair and touched her buttocks.
“Some of the same issues in the Miramonte case are highlighted here,” said attorney Don Beck, who represented the student Stobbe molested, “the same lack of monitoring teachers, the same lack of supervision that allowed these events to happen.” LA Times, 19 Dec 2012.
Time will tell if this will be the most expensive litigation in LAUSD history.
If you, or someone you love, have been abused, please contact our office today at 888.212.0440 or through the form below for a free case review.