Protests against LAUSD’s protection of victims of sexual abuse

The second largest school district in the United States is under public scrutiny for the highly publicized case that holds a 14-year-old girl responsible for the sexual abuse she endured from her middle school teacher.Protesters marched today against LAUSD’s lack of protection for sexual abuse victims.

Over the course of seven months through 2010 and 2011, former Edison Middle School student “M.S.” was having sexual relations with her math teacher. The former teacher Elkis Hermida was sentenced three years in prison for lewd acts against a child. However, the jury ruled that LAUSD was not negligent for the failing to prevent the relationship.

Documents from the school district contend that the relationship between M.S. and Hermida was “not forced and that plaintiff facilitated the encounters by lying to others and keeping the incidents a secret — thereby preventing the District from discovering the situation and taking steps to protect her.”

Many disparaging items were brought up in the controversial case. There has been a continuing debate over whether the victim’s sexual history should have been acknowledged as evidence in her case against LAUSD. This brought about an improper interest in the case in a “blame the victim strategy.” It also prejudiced the jury by saying during closing that the girl’s knowledge of sexual slang would lead people to determine that the sex was consensual and partly her fault.

The ruling stated, “On appeal, the District continues to maintain that a minor student who is the victim of sexual abuse by a teacher bears responsibility for preventing that abuse. The District was wrong in the trial court and is wrong now.”

W. Keith Wyatt, the attorney who represented LAUSD, is currently at issue for criticizing the young girl as the willing subject of her own abuse. In a radio interview with KPCC, he chastised the victim by saying, “Making a decision as to whether or not cross the street when traffic is coming, that takes a level of maturity and that’s a much more dangerous decision to decide than, ‘Hey, I want to have sex with my teacher.’” The school district apologized for the comment, fired the attorney and then secretly re-hired him.

Attorney John Manley, part of California’s leading law firm that represents child victims sexual abuse, had a very angry reaction to LAUSD’s appeal. He said, “”It is very disturbing that LAUSD plans to continue its strategy of blaming the victims of sexual predators in our schools and wants to make children more vulnerable to sexual assault thought California.”

LAUSD has been “blasted” for filing an appeal with the California Supreme Court to minimize the protections given to underage victims of sexual predators in the state.

Today, the school board discussed the case, S.M. VS LAUSD in a closed session.