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LAUSD, two administrators sued for failing to report sex abuse by science teacher

The Los Angeles Unified School District headquarters
Los Angeles Unified School District’s downtown headquarters.
(Damian Dovarganes / Associated Press)
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Two Los Angeles Unified School District administrators who were convicted of criminal charges for failing to report sex crimes by a science teacher are being sued along with the district by a former student victimized in the assaults for their role in covering up the sexual abuse.

Administrators Jesus Angulo and Maria Sotomayor, who formerly served as principal and assistant principal, respectively, of South East High School, were previously convicted of violating the state’s mandatory reporting law. Both pleaded no contest to the misdemeanor offense in 2008 after they failed to report to authorities that a 17-year-old girl had informed them she had been sexually abused.

Despite heavy public criticism from prosecutors, both administrators were allowed to return to school and were eventually promoted within L.A. Unified, according to the lawsuit and the victim‘s attorneys.

As district employees, the school administrators were mandated under state law to report any reasonable suspicion of child abuse.

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“This case represents the most glaring example of victim shaming and the organized cover-up of child sexual abuse,” said Morgan Stewart, who represents the victim, now 32. “Not only were the administrators who committed these crimes retained by LAUSD, they were promoted! That tells parents everything they need to know about LAUSD’s abject failure to protect students from sexual predators.”

In 2007, forensic science teacher Jesus Salvador Saenz, a mentor to the then-17-year-old girl, molested, abused and raped her, according to the lawsuit filed last week. The student reported it to the two administrators.

“The respective Principal and Assistant Principal at South East High School kept Plaintiff trapped in an administrative office, pressured her to recant her story, by telling her she would be in trouble for reporting the crime and threatening her,” according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit alleges Angulo and Sotomayor, after berating the student for more than eight hours, failed to fulfill their legal duties to protect the student, “perhaps their singularly most important job.”

Seven months after the student made that report to the principal and assistant principal, Saenz was prosecuted and convicted of unlawful sex with a minor. Charges were filed against the administrators for failing to report the crimes.

Sex crimes investigators eventually found out about the allegations after an LAUSD school police officer reported learning of the sexual abuse case.

In a legal claim, that officer alleged he was given “freeway therapy” and transferred to a location far from his home by the district after exposing the principal and assistant principal, according to the lawsuit. The officer alleges he was moved the day the two administrators were allowed to return to the campus in 2008.

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The now 32-year-old victim alleges that LAUSD punished her for reporting her abuse. In the lawsuit, she alleges she was put on a home school program, given her diploma and disinvited from walking in graduation.

Los Angeles Unified has paid out nearly $400 million in sexual abuse verdicts and settlements during the last few decades. In October, the district paid $52 million to settle a lawsuit by victims of wrestling coach Terry Gillard, who is serving 71 years in prison for sexual abuse at a local Boys & Girls Club and at John H. Francis Polytechnic High in Sun Valley.

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