LOS ANGELES (AP) – A jury ruled Tuesday that the Los Angeles Unified School District must pay a boy molested by an elementary school teacher $6.9 million – among the largest awards in the history of the school system.
The decision comes as the district’s attorneys were attempting to quickly settle high-profile sex abuse suits involving nearly 200 plaintiffs stemming from Miramonte Elementary School teacher Mark Berndt, who is alleged to have fed his students semen and has pleaded not guilty to 23 counts of lewd conduct.
The jury found the district liable for the repeated molestation of the 10-year-old student in 2008 and 2009 by teacher Forrest Stobbe at Queen Anne Elementary School in the city’s mid-Wilshire district, the Los Angeles Times (
In September 2011, Stobbe pleaded no contest to lewd acts on a child and continuous sexual abuse of a child under 14.
But the civil lawsuit was concerned only with the liability of the district.
Stobbe was a veteran teacher with a clean criminal record, but plaintiff’s attorneys argued that administrators including the school’s principal should have heeded complaints about Stobbe that preceded the molestation.
School attorneys argued that despite the horrible ordeal of the victim, there was no credible evidence known to the district that Stobbe posed a threat.
“We take our duty to protect our students seriously and are continually looking for ways that we can strengthen our screening and reporting processes to ensure that no child is ever hurt in this way,” said general counsel David Holmquist. “Although we can’t change what happened in this case, we remain committed to doing everything in our power to promote healing and improve trust with those impacted.”
The ruling was especially significant with the Miramonte lawsuits looming, setting a high bar financially and demonstrating a jury’s willingness to blame the district for the actions of a teacher. Berndt also had a clean record, but parents had raised concerns about the way he had photographed children.
“Some of the same issues in the Miramonte case are highlighted here,” said attorney Don Beck who represented the victim’s family in the Queen Anne case. “The same lack of monitoring teachers, the same lack of supervision that allowed these events to happen.”
District General Counsel David Holmquist said earlier this month that he hoped to settle all the Miramonte lawsuits and legal claims by the end of January, but some attorneys and plaintiffs have recently dropped out of settlement negotiations, and a Los Angeles judge last week lifted a litigation stay, allowing the cases to move toward court.
(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)
- Telecommuting: 5 tips to make it work for employers and employees
- See how top CFOs feel about economic growth in the Valley
- Migraine myths that keep patients from effective treatments
- Here’s why Gaydos went tankless with his water heater
- 12 things to watch before the Oscars
- Bocce ball and basketball: How you can help Arizona's Special Olympics athletes
- Tips on building the best wine room in Arizona
- Avoid the nightmare: 6 tips to choose a great contractor
- Breast cancer: Improved testing and treatments means more survivors
- Best and worst of Super Bowl commercials
- Failed back surgery: New hope for patients living in pain
- Ticking time bombs: Telltale signs your water heater is about to explode
- Reading glasses could be a thing of the past
- 6 cool ways teachers are using technology in the classroom
- Emerging tech jobs in Phoenix and how to get one in 2017
- 4 top treatments athletes use for pain
- Emergency! What to do when bathrooms flood
- Operation Santa Claus needs holiday help
- This college bowl season is likely to be epic
- Arizona kids in crisis: How you can help
- 11 holiday classics for the ultimate movie marathon
- New treatment offers hope for migraine sufferers
- 11 stadiums to watch your favorite football team
- Shopping for a TV? Best models for 2016
- The new beer pairing guide for holiday foods
- Avoid this holiday plumbing disaster in your home
- 7 tips to avoid holiday weight gain
- New treatments mean better prostate cancer survival rates
- 5 of the scariest things found in drains
- 6 tips to create the best family movie night