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L.A. school district to pay $88M to settle sex abuse cases

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Mark Berndt(Photo: Al Seib, AP)

The Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), the nation’s second-largest, will pay $88 million to settle 30 sexual abuse cases at two elementary schools,<span style="color: Red;">*</span>district officials said Monday.
The settlement is the second largest in LAUSD<span style="color: Red;">*</span>history, the Los Angeles Times reported.
"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," said Gregory McNair, a senior attorney with the district.
The cases involved 18 children at De La Torre Elementary School in Wilmington and another 12 children<span style="color: Red;">*</span>at Telfair Avenue Elementary School in Pacoima. The average payout will be about about $3 million per family, including awards that two Telfair students won through a jury verdict last year, the Times reported.
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The cases involved two schools serving predominantly low-income students at opposite ends of the sprawling school system. At the two schools, as well as a third, Miramonte Elementary School, veteran teachers’ conduct raised questions for years.
In the Miramonte case, teacher Mark Berndt was arrested in 2012 and is serving a 25-year sentence for committing lewd acts. The district paid out $175 million in the case.
Protesters march near Miramonte Elementary School in Los Angeles Feb. 6, 2012, after Los Angeles schools Supt. John Deasy informed parents that the district was replacing the entire staff of Miramonte Elementary School in the wake of the arrests of two teachers on lewd conduct charges.<span style="color: Red;">*</span>(Photo: Krista Kennell, AFP/Getty Images)

At Telfair, authorities said, teacher Paul Chapel III sexually abused a dozen students over a decade, including acts such as kissing boys on their genitals. He is serving a 25-year sentence after a no-contest plea.
At De La Torre, teacher Robert Pimentel pleaded no contest to sexually assaulting four girls, including a relative, and was sentenced to 12 years in prison.
The cases, which in a few instances<span style="color: Red;">*</span>followed years of complaints about the teachers’ behavior, prompted LAUSD to do a better job documenting allegations against employees. The district, which enrolls more than 650,000 students, also moved to train personnel to recognize and report abuse and set up a special investigations unit.
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Plaintiffs' attorney John Manly likened the district's handling of these cases to the Roman Catholic Church's failure to halt abuse by priests, telling the Times, “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."
Follow Greg Toppo on Twitter: @gtoppo

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