VAN NUYS (CNS) — Settlements have been reached in lawsuits filed against Los Angeles Unified on behalf of multiple minor girls who alleged they were sexually abused by a teacher at a Canoga Park school, attorneys confirmed on Tuesday, July 6.
Lawyers for the plaintiffs filed notices of settlement in Van Nuys Superior Court last month. No terms were divulged.
All of the girls alleged they were inappropriately touched by teacher Rene Tenas at Hart Street Elementary School.
“He … made students massage him and he would show plaintiffs his underwear,” according to the plaintiffs’ attorneys’ court papers. “When plaintiffs refused to do as Mr. Tenas instructed, he would threaten that they would get into trouble. He would also bite them or put sad faces on their homework. Mr. Tenas also made plaintiffs promise not to tell anyone about his actions and would give them candy in exchange for their silence.”
The final plaintiff to sue was a 17-year-old teen, identified only as Jane S.N. Doe, who brought her case Feb. 10. She alleged she was molested by Tenas while she was in the fourth grade at Hart Street Elementary.
The suit, which was filed on the girl’s behalf by her mother because the plaintiff is a minor, alleged the girl was abused between August 2013 and June 2014 by Tenas, who pleaded no contest in October 2018 to two felony counts of lewd acts on a child.
The then-39-year-old Canyon Country resident was sentenced in Van Nuys Superior Court the following month to five years in state prison and was ordered to register as a sex offender for life.
Prosecutors had accused Tenas of inappropriately touching six girls — ages 9 and 10 — on or between Aug. 1, 2016, and Jan. 31, 2017, at Hart Street Elementary. Jane S.N. Doe was not one of the victims in the criminal case, according to her attorney, who alleged that Tenas “sexually harassed, abused and molested” her on multiple occasions.
Tenas groomed Doe by telling her he would help her with her homework, and he kept her and other female students in his classroom during recess, lunch and after school for his sexual gratification, according to the suit, which alleged that neither the LAUSD nor the school administration took any action to restrict Tenas’ interaction with minors.
Subsequent to her alleged sexual abuse, the plaintiff began making a connection between her present physical and emotional problems and her experiences as a student at Hart, according to the suit.
Her attorney further alleged that the LAUSD had “actual or constructive knowledge” that Tenas had previously engaged in “dangerous and inappropriate conduct with children, including sexually abusing other minors at Hart,” but “conspired to and did knowingly cover up and failed to take reasonable steps” to avoid future sexual misconduct by Tenas with students.