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L.A. Unified agrees to settle two molestation claims for $5 million

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LAUSD agrees to pay $5 million to settle 2 student claims of molestation at Telfair Elementary

The Los Angeles Unified School District has agreed to pay $5 million to settle two legal claims from students who alleged they were molested by a former Telfair Elementary School teacher, a plaintiff's attorney said Wednesday.

The settlements, which still must be approved by a judge, would be the first related to the case of former third-grade instructor Paul Chapel III, who pleaded no contest to 13 counts of lewd acts on a child in 2012 and was sentenced to 25 years in prison.

One plaintiff will receive $3 million, and the other will get $2 million, said attorney Thomas Cifarelli, who represents several other students with claims against the district related to Chapel. Both students were 8 years old at the time of the abuse; they are now 11.

The molestations of seven girls and six boys occurred from September 2006 to April 2011, officials said. All the children were students at Telfair in Pacoima.

The settlement concludes nearly two years of litigation. The lawsuit was filed in July 2012, and there had been no serious talks of settlement until this week, Cifarelli said.

"I think ultimately L.A. Unified recognized that we were prepared to prove that they were negligent in the hiring, the retention and the supervision of Chapel," Cifarelli said. "I think they realized that this case was not going to end well for them."

He declined to specify how many other students he represents.

L.A. Unified general counsel David Holmquist said in a statement that when district officials learned of the allegations in 2011, they immediately informed law enforcement, removed Chapel from the school and eventually fired him.

"Unfortunately, plaintiffs suffered harm before the teacher's activities were uncovered," Holmquist said. "For this reason and in an effort to shield the young children from a long and emotional trial, we are finalizing settlements which we are confident will provide for the future health and educational needs of the students involved."

The Chapel case emerged publicly soon after L.A. Unified's largest abuse scandal. At Miramonte Elementary School, a third-grade teacher was charged with more than two dozen lewd acts; the district has paid $30 million in settlements and legal fees in that case.

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Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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