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L.A. Unified to pay $22 million to students who said they were sexually abused by two employees

L.A. Unified to pay $22 million to students who said they were sexually abused by two employees
The Los Angeles Unified School District agreed to pay $22 million to settle two lawsuits with current and former students who say they were among those molested by Ronnie Lee Roman, left, and Jaime Jimenez. (Los Angeles Police Department)

The Los Angeles Unified School District has agreed to pay $22 million to settle two lawsuits with 16 students who say they were molested by two coaches.

The settlement, announced Wednesday, effectively ends two civil suits: one filed by the families of nine Cahuenga Elementary School students who say they were molested by Ronnie Lee Roman and another filed on behalf of seven Franklin High School football players who accused Jaime Jimenez of sexually abusing them. Both lawsuits against the district were filed in Los Angeles Superior Court in 2016.

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The plaintiffs in the elementary school case will receive $14 million, and $8 million will be paid to those in the Jimenez case. During a closed-session meeting Aug. 21, the Los Angeles Board of Education unanimously approved the settlements and voted to sue insurance companies to cover costs related to the lawsuits.

The district — the country’s second-largest school system — has been plagued by a series of cases alleging that officials have missed indications of teacher misconduct and, in some instances, continued to employ teachers who were suspected of wrongdoing.

Such accusations have led to a string of massive payouts to victims and attorneys that has surpassed $300 million in recent years.

While district spokeswoman Shannon Haber declined to comment on the settlements, she wrote in a prepared statement that “student safety is always of utmost concern, and we have made changes in our policies and practices to strengthen the protections for our students.”

“While we have made much progress, we will continue to work diligently with our parents and the community to provide the safest possible environment for our students to learn and succeed,” she said.

Morgan Stewart, an attorney who represented former and current students in both cases, said that despite what he called the district’s “claimed efforts” to bolster its training and enforce more stringent standards for vetting staff, students continue to be abused.

“These horrific cases provide two more sickening examples of LAUSD’s continuing failure to protect children under its care,” Stewart said. “LAUSD ignored complaints against Roman going back more than a decade and failed to heed law enforcement’s indications that he was in fact abusing children.”

Roman, 45, of San Fernando is serving 105 years to life in prison after being convicted last year of molesting young girls at the Koreatown elementary school between January 2012 and September 2014. At the time of the abuse, prosecutors said, Roman worked as a Youth Services coach for an after-school program called Beyond the Bell.

Six of the assaults occurred on school grounds and a seventh was at a victim’s home, authorities said.

Jimenez, 50, of Los Angeles, a former Franklin High School volunteer football coach, was sentenced to more than 36 years in state prison after pleading no contest in 2016 to sexually assaulting teen players at the Highland Park school from 2002 until his arrest in 2015.

Witnesses testified during a preliminary hearing in 2016 that Jimenez gave students rides from practice, bought them gifts and regularly invited them to his house, where he sometimes plied them with alcohol, according to court records.

Attorneys for the students said in court filings that district administrators ignored several red flags about Jimenez’s behavior, including secluding students in equipment and locker rooms, giving them rides in his car and taking photos with them.

Roman and Jimenez will be eligible for parole in 2040, according to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

Times staff writer Richard Winton contributed to this report.

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