Attorneys Demand Policy Changes at LAUSD
Letter to Thomas A. Delaney, Esq.
RE: A.M., et al. v. Los Angeles Unified School District, et al
LASC Case No. BC484111 (Lead Case)
Dear Mr. Delaney:
We write on behalf of our clients, as well as their families, regarding the issue of child sexual abuse in the Los Angeles Unified School District (“LAUSD” or “District”). During the past year, we have been made aware that hundreds of children have been sexually abused at numerous schools across the District. We also learned, from a state audit, that the District was not in compliance with state law regarding the reporting of these offenders to the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing. The LAUSD promised a full report, from Judge Moreno, on the situation at Mirmnonte Elementary School, and that report, as of yet, has not been made public.
The LAUSD remains silent as to the exact number, and identities of, teachers and administrators who have been credibly accused of abusing children within the District. This is not an acceptable situation. Superintendent Deasy and Chairman Garcia have an obligation to the District, and an even higher obligation to parents and children of the community. We know one thing for certain – that silence and secrecy, when it comes to those who abuse children, is a prescription for more abuse.
Therefore, on behalf of our clients and the countless others who may have been abused at schools within the LAUSD, or who may be abused in the future, we ask for the following nonmonetary policy changes to be implemented by the LAUSD immediately:
- Publicly disclose all documents(1) relating to molestation at Miramonte Elementary School, George de la Torre Elementary School, Telfair Elementary School and other schools where a current criminal or civil claim against a faculty member is proceeding. This disclosure shall occur through the assistance of a superior court judge, or judicial referee who can independently examine privilege claims of the LAUSD and/or alleged perpetrators before public disclosure, in order to preserve any constitutional or statutory rights. This process has been established in other high profile cases in Los Angeles County, and this procedure has been approved by the California Courts of Appeal;
- Forward a list of all teachers credibly accused of sexual or other child abuse to the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office, and every law enforcement agency within the geographic region from which the abuse claim arose. This is a critical step towards fully informing law enforcement about those who may have harmed children;
- Open a dialogue with victims’ counsel, the Teacher’s Union and the District on a process for public disclosure of the names of teachers credibly accused of abuse. This is also a critical step because it is well established that a pedophile who is terminated from one position involving children will almost always seek another position with access to potential victims. This report should be made public within 180 days and disclose the number of known victims, the school site where the abuse occurred, the dates of abuse and the teacher’s current status with the LAUSD;
- Identify all administrators currently employed by the District who have failed to comply with child abuse reporting statutes, and begin appropriate disciplinary proceedings against them, up to and including termination. This is a critical step towards ensuring the protection of Los Angeles’ children;
- Ask the Los Angeles District Attorney and/or the U.S. Attorney’s Office to appoint special counsel to investigate the LAUSD’s handling of child abuse cases, including those at Miramonte, George de la Torre and Telfair, from 1995 to the present. At this point in time, the only persons to comprehensively investigate the LAUSD are its own personnel with an unavoidable conflict of interest;
- Establish a child safety office and ombudsman at the LAUSD. The ombudsman should be appointed by, and report to, an independent board composed of various public officials not affiliated with the LAUSD, so as to ensure independence. The sole function of this person and office will be the protection of children of the LAUSD from physical, emotional and sexual abuse. The office should be granted broad powers to investigate, report and take action to protect children. We envision its duties being much like the inspector general in a federal agency. Given the tremendous harm done to children, the millions of dollars spent on investigations, payments to deserving survivors and legal fees, the LAUSD has lost its credibility on this issue;
- Cease the procedure of removing “unresolved” complaints or negative entries from employee files.
- Create a mechanism through which complaints about employees may be digitally stored and tracked.
- Create an anonymous reporting line, for use by students, faculty members and parents, to report abuse at LAUSD schools.
- Require notification of parents and faculty members, within 72 hours, when an employee is removed from a school.
- Require all LAUSD faculty members to be re-trained on California’s mandatory reporting requirements for child abuse, and sign a document that stipulates they know and understand their mandatory duties under the law, and agree to comply with them, without exception.
- Sponsor public service announcements that educate the school community about abuse by employees in schools, notifying them of the anonymous reporting line listed in #9.
- We also request the establishment of a blue ribbon commission composed of highly respected members of the public, elected officials, law enforcement officials, experts and others who will have one year to investigate the failings at the LAUSD and make comprehensive recommendations for reform, in order to ensure the protection of children and the compliance of the LAUSD and its administrators with California law.
These are concrete and comprehensive steps that are specifically designed to protect children. They stand in stark contrast to the empty words, promises and commitments of the Superintendent and Board President Garcia. I should also note that nonnally we would make these proposals in the context of a confidential settlement discussion. However, given the District’s decision to make public C.C.P. section 998 settlement offers to victims of other attorneys, we have decided to make this portion of our settlement offer public. It is reasonable, it is fair, and most of all, it will protect children.
Regrettably, we cannot have a meaningful discussion regarding financial compensation for these victims until we are assured there are meaningful policies in place at LAUSD to protect children now and in the future. The sad reality is that Miramonte could happen again today, and may in fact be happening right now, because of the lack of appropriate response to the underlying institutional issues that resulted in the abuse occurring in the first place.
We request a substantive response, from your client, to this letter, no later than 5:00 p.m. on July 3, 2013.
Very turly yours,
Brian Claypool, Esq. – The Claypool Firm
Vince Finaldi, Esq. – Manly, Stewart & Finaldi Firm
Luis A. Carrillo, Esq. – The Carrillo Firm