The Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) is set to pay $5 million to a former student who alleged she experienced repeated sex abuse by a teacher during the 2010-2011 school year. The abuse occurred at Edison Middle School in the Florence-Firestone neighborhood of South L.A. when the victim was 13 years old. She is now 20. The victim has not been identified by name.
Court records show that Elkis Hermida, then 30, invited the young teen to be friends online. Soon, he started sending her sexually explicit messages. Then, he called the 8th grader into a classroom and told her to shut the door before kissing and hugging her. In March 2011, he drove the student to a motel, where “they had sexual intercourse.” On a second occasion, “they…had sexual intercourse” in Hermida’s classroom.
“The next time they had sexual intercourse was on a Saturday at a motel,” according to court records. “Hermida told her that they were not in a relationship but were just having sex.” At that point, the girl “wanted to stop having sexual intercourse with Hermida but did not feel that she was free to do so.” So, the sex abuse continued.
The young woman’s attorneys are calling the settlement, which came just as pre-trial arguments were about to begin, the largest payout to a single sexual abuse victim made by LAUSD, which is the second largest school district in the nation.
“This young girl was abused in the classroom and victimized a second time in the courtroom,” John Taylor, an attorney for the girl, said. “Because of her courage and persistence, she will make it easier for other abuse victims to pursue their claims without fear of being blamed for the abuse.”
In a statement Monday, the school district said it couldn’t discuss details because the agreement had not been “executed or approved by the court.” However, attorneys for the district say they hope to make payment within thirty days.
Hermida was arrested in 2011 after a friend of the girl told a teacher about the ongoing, and at that time coerced, relationship. He pleaded no contest to one count of committing lewd acts upon a victim, then aged 14, and was sentenced to three years in prison.
In a 2011 negligence lawsuit, the girl’s attorneys argued that LAUSD ignored Hermida’s inappropriate conduct with all girls in the victim’s age group, including having them sit on his lap in the classroom. The district responded that the victim had consented to having sex and she was questioned on the stand about her previous sexual history. A jury ultimately ruled in favor of the district. However, an appeals court ordered a new trial.
In 2015, the case prompted California lawmakers to pass a new measure which barred the use of consent as a defense in civil lawsuits involving minors and adults in positions of authority over them. The law also barred the use of the minor’s sexual history to prove consent. Initiating this measure served as an acknowledgment that minors are easily manipulated into sex abuse situations with individuals in positions of authority.