Los Angeles schools reach $88 million settlement for sex abuse: report

Reuters News
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Posted: May 17, 2016 9:24 AM

(Reuters) - The Los Angeles Unified School District has agreed to pay $88 million to settle two sexual abuse cases involving now-imprisoned former elementary school teachers of the second largest public school system in the United States, according to local media.

The settlement, finalized during the weekend, will mean the families of 30 children abused at two different elementary schools by teachers Paul Chapel III and Robert Pimental will receive about $3 million apiece, the Los Angeles Times reported on Monday.

The settlement comes less than two years after the Los Angeles school system agreed to pay nearly $140 million - the largest ever for the district - to families of students sexually abuse by Mark Berndt, an elementary school teacher who took bondage-style photos of some pupils.

"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," Gregory McNair, an attorney for the district, said to the Los Angeles Times. "We're turning a corner here because we've resolved the last two very large cases that were involving the district."

A dozen children who are receiving money from the latest settlement were abused by Paul Chapel III, a former teacher at Telfair Avenue Elementary in Pacoima. Chapel, whose case arose after a parent's complaint in 2011, is serving a 25-year sentence after pleading no-contest to molestation charges in 2012, the newspaper said. The abuse reportedly occurred over a decade.

The Times also reported 18 students who were a part of the same settlement were abused by Robert Pimental, a former teacher at De La Torre Elementary in Wilmington who became the subject of allegations in 2009. Pimental, is serving a 12-year sentence.

Berndt pleaded no contest in 2014 to 23 counts of lewd acts upon a child and was sentenced to 25 years in prison.

The district has reformed its training and reporting protocols as well as how it investigates sexual abuse claims as a result of the scandals although attorneys for the victims told the newspaper that not enough has been done to protect children from sexual abuse.

"We feel this is an ongoing problem in L.A. 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, an attorney for the victims, told the Times.

(Reporting by Brendan O'Brien in Milwaukee; Editing by Bill Trott)