Los Angeles’s public schools have spent a staggering $300 million in just the past four years to settle a wave of sexual abuse lawsuits, according to a tabulation done by the Los Angeles Times.
The LA Times’ tally shows the tremendous cost that sexual abuse can have on schools. Even in a school district as vast as LAUSD (it has about 655,000 students), $300 million in payouts represents more than one percent of the district’s budget during that four-year timespan. It’s enough money to finance Hillary Clinton’s mammoth presidential campaign.
The payouts can’t be blamed on a single perpetrator either. The biggest source of payouts are abuse claims related to Mark Berndt. LAUSD was warned about Berndt’s abuse as early as 1983, but took no action, allowing him to molest students all the way up until 2011. Among other things, Berndt was accused of tying students up, blindfolding them, and then spoon-feeding them cookies laced with his own semen.
Settlements related to Berndt’s abuse have already rung up to about $200 million, and several more cases are still waiting to be resolved. (RELATED: Five Reasons LA Has The Country’s Most Messed Up School District)
LAUSD also agreed last week to pay out eight-figure settlements in two other cases, both involving elementary teachers who spent years molesting children after LAUSD ignored warnings about them.
The largest payout to a single person was a 2012 award of $6.9 million, given to a male student who was repeatedly molested by his fifth-grade teacher.
More huge settlements are almost certainly on the way. Currently, former high school football coach Jaime Jimenez faces 32 separate sexual assault charges from students who claim he used his position to abuse them from 2001 to 2015. The alleged victims of three other teachers also have cases pending against the district. And with a strong precedent already set for settlements in the tens of millions, the $300 million figure could appear tiny in short order.
The problem isn’t simply that LAUSD has some abusive teachers. That’s almost inevitable, considering the district employs over 30,000. The real problem is that the district has repeatedly been caught ignoring warning signs, dismissing complaints from parents about a teacher only to find out that teacher was molesting children a decade or more later.
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