LOS ANGELES (CNS) — A former Pacoima elementary school teacher imprisoned for molesting students has testified — via a video deposition — that he never abused any children, including one who is a plaintiff in a lawsuit now being tried before a jury.
Asked by the attorney questioning him if he ever fondled any students, Paul Chapel III replied, “No, that didn’t happen.”
Queried by the lawyer if he was sure of his answer, Chapel responded, “Yes, sir.”
Further contradicting earlier testimony in the civil suit trial, Chapel, now 54, denied he was ever by himself with a student in the classroom.
“It was inappropriate for a teacher to be alone with a student,” Chapel said.
The former third-grade teacher at Telfair Elementary School is serving a 25-year sentence imposed on him in 2012, after he pleaded no contest to molesting 13 boys during a roughly 4 1/2-year period.
Asked during the deposition why he is in prison, Chapel said, “Allegedly for molesting children.”
The suit was brought against the Los Angeles Unified School District on behalf of two boys, now ages 13 and 14. The older boy, identified as Justin, testified last week that he feels “mad, really sad, scared and disgusted” when he looks back at what Chapel did to him during the period of 2010-11.
Justin said he was not one of Chapel’s students, but often visited the teacher during recess, lunch and after school.
The boy said Chapel abused him by first rubbing his stomach before he would move his hand down toward the boy’s private parts.
But Chapel said he did not inappropriately touch Justin and that his memory of the boy was limited. He said Justin came to his class because the boy’s regular teacher did not like the student.
“He seemed like a nice enough kid,” Chapel said.
He said his students wanted to sit in his lap, but that he would not let them. “I had a rule no one could sit in my lap,” he said.
Justin testified that Chapel groomed him for abuses by giving him candy. But Chapel said he gave sweets and regular food to many of his students.
“A lot of kids came to school hungry, so I fed them at recess,” he said.
Chapel said he grew up in Northridge and Chatsworth. He testified he graduated from Granada Hills High School and obtained a bachelor’s degree and later a teaching credential from Cal State Northridge.
He said he took classes to make himself fluent in Spanish and enjoyed teaching for about a decade at Andasol Avenue Elementary School in Northridge in the 1980s and 1990s. He said many Andasol students were bused in from the MacArthur Park area, where many of the pupils speak Spanish at home.
“I liked that I got all backgrounds of students,” Chapel said.
In other testimony on Tuesday, Oct. 20, the mother of the 13-year-old plaintiff — who has since turned 14 — said he is reluctant to talk about what he endured.
The woman, identified as Teresa, said her son David told her that Chapel would touch him under his clothing, kiss and blow on his neck and have him sit on the teacher’s lap.
But she said David, who unlike Justin was a student in Chapel’s class, does not want to go into much more detail.
“He gets defensive,” Teresa said. “He does not want to talk about it. He says, ‘It’s over, why are you still doing this, it’s no big deal, I’m OK.’”
She said that after Chapel abused her son, he began refusing to use the restroom at school, choosing to wait until he gets home. She said that when she asked him to explain, he replied, “The bathrooms are dirty.’’
She said David, who is now in junior high, sometimes has problems with male teachers at the beginning of the semester, but gradually becomes comfortable with them. She said most of his new friends are girls.
The LAUSD has admitted liability in the case; the trial is to determine the damages owed to Justin and David.
The LAUSD previously reached a $5 million settlement with another group of former Telfair students in June 2014 and $4.42 million with three more former students in May.