VAN NUYS (CNS) – A judge has approved a $3.5 million settlement between the Los Angeles Unified School District and a former special needs student who alleged he was sexually abused and provided alcohol by a teacher’s aide whose job was to assist him getting to and from class during the 2018-19 school year.
The plaintiff is identified only as John Doe in the Van Nuys Superior Court lawsuit filed in October 2020 against the district and teacher’s aide Alex Salas, alleging negligent supervision and retention of Salas and negligent supervision of a minor. The plaintiff dropped Salas as a defendant on Jan. 6.
The parties were in the middle of jury selection in January when attorneys informed Judge Huey Cotton that the case was resolved. During a hearing Monday, the same judge approved the settlement on behalf of the plaintiff, who is currently 20 years old and has a disability.
In previous court papers, the plaintiff’s lawyers stated that Doe “will continue to suffer emotional distress damages.” Under the accord, Doe will receive just over $2 million that will be placed in a special trust after attorneys’ fees and other expenses are deducted.
In their earlier court papers, attorneys for the school district argued that no district administrator or supervisor knew or should have known about Salas’ alleged abuse of Doe and further maintained that the district “took all reasonable measures to prevent this type of conduct from occurring, including establishing, distributing and conducting training of all its staff to recognize, combat and report misconduct.”
The plaintiff attended Grant High School from 2017-20 and during the 2018-19 school year, the district assigned Salas to be a special education assistant for Doe, who was then 16.
Salas, who was in his 40s, rode on a school bus with Doe to and from school and was tasked with helping the plaintiff walk to and from the bus, the suit stated.
“Salas utilized his assignment as an assistant for plaintiff to begin grooming and conditioning plaintiff with the specific intent of manipulating plaintiff’s emotions and taking advantage of his young age so that he could ultimately sexually abuse him,” the suit alleged.
Salas began giving Doe extra attention, including touching him and asking the plaintiff to kiss him while they traveled on the bus, the suit stated. At school, Salas asked Doe to have lunch with him, according to the suit.
Salas also began giving Doe rides in his personal vehicle, where at times he touched Doe on his upper thighs, according to the suit. Salas additionally drove Doe to get food and to the mall to buy the plaintiff gifts, the suit stated.
Salas also allegedly texted “flirtatious and sexually suggestive messages” to Doe. His alleged grooming and conditioning of Doe culminated in Salas taking Doe to a Burbank motel where he ostensibly was to help him with his homework in private, according to the suit.
But on each of the four trips to the motel, Salas provided beer and hard liquor, then sexually abused him, the plaintiff alleged.
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