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$13M Verdict Against Los Angeles Unified School District for Sexual Abuse of Then 14-Year-Old Student

— March 8, 2024

LAUSD, aware that Daniel Garcia was violating safety rules during his employment, ignored multiple reports of sexual harassment.

LOS ANGELES – Attorneys John Taylor and Natalie Weatherford of Taylor & Ring, a California plaintiff trial law firm, obtained a $13 million verdict on behalf of the plaintiff, Jane Doe, against Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD). The jury apportioned 80% of the fault for Jane Doe’s damages to LAUSD. Jane Doe was groomed and sexually abused by Daniel Garcia, a nineteen-year-old special education paraprofessional at Daniel Pearl Magnet High School (DPMHS) in Van Nuys, California. Doe was fourteen years old at the time the grooming began. Before he abused Jane, LAUSD had received notice that Garcia had dated a student at the LAUSD school he was assigned to before being transferred to DPMHS. Garcia was charged with several felonies related to the sexual abuse of Jane Doe and he pleaded no contest to felony statutory rape.

“At trial, LAUSD attorneys argued that LAUSD was not responsible for Jane Doe’s abuse since the most severe incident of abuse occurred off campus. LAUSD’s defense ignored the fact that Garcia was allowed to groom and manipulate Jane Doe on its campus for over one year, in plain view of its staff and administrators,” said attorney Natalie Weatherford. “The jury recognized the devastating impact that grooming and sexual abuse had on this young plaintiff’s life.”

“LAUSD knew Garcia had serious boundary issues with students when they transferred Garcia from school to school. LAUSD repeatedly passed the trash and exposed thousands of students, including Jane Doe, to a dangerous, unfit employee,” commented attorney John Taylor. “We’re hopeful this verdict is a step in the right direction and that school districts who fail to terminate dangerous employees will be held accountable.”

History of Jane Doe’s Abuse

Jane Doe was fourteen years old when she entered the 9th grade for the 2014 – 2015 school year at DPMHS. At the time of the abuse, Garcia was a nineteen-year-old employee of LAUSD, employed as a special education paraprofessional assigned to assist disabled students at DPMHS. Garcia attended Jane’s class as an aide, where he immediately began grooming her. The grooming quickly escalated to him putting his phone number in her phone, texting her, touching her at school, sending graphic photos of himself, and more. In late 2014, Garcia drove Jane to a park outside of school where he sexually abused her in his car. The harassment continued through September 2015 and ended when Garcia was transferred to another LAUSD school. Jane reported Garcia’s abuse for the first time on April 20, 2016. Garcia was arrested on May 3, 2016, and admitted he had sexual contact with Jane Doe and several other LAUSD female students.

History of Garcia’s Sexual Abuse at LAUSD

LAUSD had received repeated, specific notice that Garcia was an unfit employee prior to his employment at DPMHS. During the 2013 – 2014 academic year, LAUSD employed 18-year-old Garcia as an hourly campus aide at Cesar E. Chavez Learning Academies. During his first year, he began dating a 17-year-old student, a direct violation of LAUSD policies. As a result, Garcia was reassigned to the front office, away from the students.

Teen couple on the beach; image by Tim Mossholder, via
Teen couple on the beach; image by Tim Mossholder, via

During the 2014 – 2015 academic year, Garcia was assigned to work as a special education paraprofessional at DPMHS. In September or October 2014, a 14-year-old female student reported to DPMHS’ Principal Deb Smith that Garcia looked at her in a way that made her feel uncomfortable and unsafe. In early November 2014, the same student again reported that Garcia snapped her bra strap in class. The claim was confirmed by another student who had witnessed the incident during the principal’s investigation, yet no action was taken against Garcia.

In January 2015, multiple complaints were made by students that Garcia was dating minor female students and “flirting” with young girls on campus. Despite this information, the principal was not concerned that Garcia was unfit to work with students.

During the 2014 – 2015 academic year, a campus security aide overheard students say that Garcia was dating students, yet no report was created. Despite all the reports and complaints, he was rehired by LAUSD to work for the 2015 – 2016 school year, where he continued harassing Jane. On September 1, 2015, Garcia was transferred to Will Rogers Continuation High School.

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