$52 Million Settlement Reached For Kids Abused By LA Unified School District Wrestling Coach

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA (November 4, 2022) – Los Angeles County officials have reached a $52 million settlement on behalf of 15 victims of sexual abuse by a Sun Valley wrestling coach, according to the LA Times

The settlement comes after the criminal conviction of Terry Gillard who taught wrestling at Sun Valley high school. He was arrested and convicted of molesting 9 children. 

The civil lawsuit brought by the victims alleged that the Los Angeles Unified School District knew about prior instances of sexual abuse and failed to act. Terry Gillard met his victims while working with the wrestling teams at John H. Francis Polytechnic High School in Sun Valley and the Tigers Wrestling Club.

During the criminal trial of the wrestling coach, jurors heard testimony that the abuse began as far back as 1991. Attorneys in the civil case said that the LAUSD has a long and sordid history of covering up child abused by teachers and coaches. 

Liability For LAUSD Teacher Sexual Abuse

Sexual assaults by teachers or authority figures is far more common than many people realize. According to Fox 5, “At least 135 teachers and teachers’ aides have been arrested so far [in 2022] on child sex-related crimes in the U.S., ranging from child pornography to raping students.” The vast majority of sex crimes perpetrated by teachers against children are never even reported or investigated. There are a number of signs that parents should look out for which may indicate that their child is being sexually abused at school. 

Children who are being abused may have unexplained nightmares or sleep problems.

  • Children who are being abused may have sudden mood swings or withdrawal.
  • Children who are being abused may have a sudden decline in academic performance.

California school teachers are mandated reporters and have a legal responsibility to report suspected instances of sexual abuse. Failure to report sexual abuse is a crime that can result in fines and jail time. Pursuant to California Penal Code 11166(c), a mandated reporter that fails to report reasonably suspected instances of sexual abuse is guilty of a misdemeanor and may face up to six months in a county jail. Unfortunately, it is common for teachers to fail to report sexual abuse. In many circumstances, they are scared of losing their jobs or being ostracized by their peers.

Schools have a legal obligation to properly supervise the children in their care and follow all rules and regulations necessary for their safety. School officials will also need to perform a background check on teachers and other people employed by the school district. Failing to conduct a background check on school employees or failing to investigate sexual abuse could form the basis of a negligence claim. As outlined in Virginia G. v. ABC Unified School District (1993) 15 Cal. App. 4th 1848, schools can be liable for the sexual assault of a child by a teacher if supervisors knew (or should have known) about that teacher’s history of sexual misconduct with students. There are many steps that schools should take to help prevent sexual abuse. 

  • The Department’s School Safety Commission should include steps on the prevention of sexual abuse by employees.
  • Schools should properly vet all school employees.
  • Suspected instances of sexual abuse should be reported to authorities. 
  • School districts should work to determine the prevalence of sexual abuse.

Sexual abuse is one of the most destructive and harmful things that a child can go through. Victims of sexual abuse are prone to long-term psychological trauma. They are also more likely to experience negative health outcomes in many other areas. Any person that is the victim of sexual abuse may be able to seek some measure of justice through a civil claim. A civil claim can help with many of the expenses that can stem from sexual abuse. A sexual abuse attorney can examine all of the facts of your case and let you know what your legal options are. 

Investigating Los Angeles Unified School District Teacher Sexual Abuse

We at the Carrillo Law Firm, LLP extend our best wishes and sympathies to all of the victims of Terry Gillard. It is our sincere hope that this settlement will move LAUSD officials to take additional measures to protect children from sexual abuse. The LAUSD should not be indifferent to the well-being of the students in their care. 

Have you or someone that you care about been the victim of sexual abuse in California? There are a number of laws designed to protect your rights. Our team of experienced sexual abuse attorneys are here to help in any way that we can. We care deeply that abuse victims are aware of their rights and that those rights are being protected. Whether you just have legal questions or need any type of support, we are here for you. You can reach out to us anytime at 626-799-9375.

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