School Board Settles Child Molestation Case : Lawsuit: District to pay $6 million to 16 youngsters abused by teacher at two South-Central Los Angeles campuses. Victims could get $20 million over their lifetimes.


The Los Angeles Board of Education on Monday agreed to pay more than $6 million to settle a civil suit stemming from the biggest child molestation case in district history.

The money will go to 16 children who were molested by third-grade teacher Terry E. Bartholome at the 68th Street School in South-Central Los Angeles.

Because the settlement amount will be invested in an annuity and paid out over the lifetimes of the young victims, it will result in payments totaling more than $20 million, according to a lawyer for the Los Angeles Unified School District.

The 19 parents or guardians who also were plaintiffs in the suit had sought more than $200 million when the suit was filed in 1986. The payments will go toward psychological counseling, medical services and education as well as providing a source of income for the victims, Richard K. Mason, special counsel to the superintendent, said in recommending that the board accept the plaintiffs' offer.

Bartholome, arrested in 1985 after two years at the school and a long record of complaints involving alleged sexual activities, was convicted and sentenced in 1986 to 44 years in prison.

That same year, a district administrator, Stuart N. Bernstein, was convicted of violating a state law that requires prompt reporting of molestation complaints to a child protective agency. Bernstein reported the allegations against Bartholome in December, 1984, to school district police instead of to the Los Angeles Police Department.

Bernstein's conviction was overturned on appeal in 1987, and he has returned to the district as a regional administrator in charge of operations.

Court documents showed district officials had received complaints about Bartholome's conduct while he was teaching sixth grade at 107th Street School, also in South-Central Los Angeles. The documents also showed the district had been aware when they hired Bartholome in 1967 that he had been arrested more than five years earlier for exposing himself to a group of nurses in Tacoma, Wash.

District officials and others involved in the case had repeatedly refused to discuss why no action was taken against Bartholome sooner.

On Monday, attorney Mason called the case "very sad and unfortunate" but praised the settlement as a "reasonable and just one."

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