An attorney for an underaged plaintiff ripped the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) after a $2.1 million payout was reached to settle a case where the plaintiff alleged she had been sexually abused by her third grade teacher at Telfair Elementary School in Pacoima.
The plaintiff, now 17 and identified as “Jane RH Doe,” said she was molested by teacher Paul Chapel during the 2010-11 school year.
“Obviously it’s a huge settlement, and what it reflects is two things: the gravity of the harm done to the victims by Mr. Chapel — who is, I think it’s fair to say, a sexual predator in the extreme— and that the district was well aware that he was a clear and present danger to children and nevertheless put him in a school where he had access to children,” John C. Manly, one of the plaintiff’s attorneys, told the San Fernando Valley Sun after the settlement was announced.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Samantha Jessner had to approve the settlement in order to finalize the case resolution because the plaintiff is a minor.
“Jane RH Doe” gave a sworn declaration in support of the settlement, in which she gave a detailed account of the abuses she alleges she suffered in Chapel’s classroom during the 2010-11 school year, when she was 8-years-old.
“It is our hope that this will begin healing for our client,” Manly said. “And that the district will learn a lesson in that you can’t do this. They didn’t pay the settlement because they’re good people. They paid this settlement because they are well aware that a Los Angeles jury would have absolutely decimated them in this case, given their conduct.”
Manly further excoriated District officials, saying they had put Chapel “in a school that I would say is remote, and filled with immigrant kids. It’s not an accident they didn’t put him in Pacific Palisades. They put him in [a location] where most parents work [multiple] jobs to make ends meet. I think that’s particularly troubling.”
The LAUSD has reached settlements with other plaintiffs who’ve alleged they were abused by Chapel, including 12 who agreed to a collective $30 million settlement on May 16.
Chapel pleaded no contest to committing lewd acts on 13 former students — seven girls and six boys — and was sentenced in September 2012 by San Fernando Superior Court Judge Lloyd Nash to 25 years in prison. Prosecutors dropped 15 additional counts that could have sent the former Chatsworth resident, then 51, to prison for life.
The LAUSD also reached settlements of $2.1 million each last July with another plaintiff in the suit, “Jane JM Doe,” who is now 18 years old, as well as with the adult plaintiff in a separate case, “John AA Doe,” who’s now 20 years old.
City News Service contributed to this report.