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Girl says LAUSD bullied her after she alleged sexual assault

David R. Holmquist, general counsel for the Los Angeles Unified School District, right, and Greg McNair are two of the LAUSD lawyers accused of bullying and intimidating a student who alleged sexual assault.

David R. Holmquist, general counsel for the Los Angeles Unified School District, right, and Greg McNair are two of the LAUSD lawyers accused of bullying and intimidating a student who alleged sexual assault.

(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)
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A student who alleged she was sexually assaulted at a Los Angeles school has filed a claim with the district for negligence, bullying and “outrageous conduct” that she says retraumatized her.

The claim, filed Wednesday, accuses Los Angeles Unified School District attorneys David Holmquist, Greg McNair, Jesus Melendez and John M. Coleman of carrying out a “campaign of bullying and intimidation and retraumatization of Jane Doe,” said her lawyer, Luis Carrillo. These actions constituted an effort to discourage the student and her parents from continuing with a lawsuit they filed against the district in 2013, Carrillo said.

The claim refers to the student as Jane Doe to protect her identity.

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L.A. Unified officials have declined to address the specifics of the complaint, but in an emailed statement to the Los Angeles Times, they acknowledged receiving it.

“We have made every effort to accommodate his [Carrillo’s] client,” Holmquist said via a spokeswoman. “We have treated this student with respect and provided highly trained and experienced professionals who are specialists in their field.”

The alleged bullying is part of a broader pattern from the district’s lawyers “designed to intimidate minor Claimants and their parents, and to discourage minor Claimants and their parents, from continuing with the civil lawsuits that they have filed,” the claim says.

The claim was filed on the same day the California State Court of Appeal ruled that the district cannot blame a 14-year-old girl for her own sexual assault or introduce evidence of her prior sexual history in a case involving her teacher.

Wednesday’s claim comes soon after the district agreed to increase to nearly $175 million its payout to students who alleged they were sexually abused at Miramonte Elementary School. Carrillo was one of the attorneys representing plaintiffs in the Miramonte case.

The assault alleged in Wednesday’s claim occurred in April 2012, when a stranger came onto campus and attacked the girl, then 12, in a bathroom, Carrillo said. The man “pulled her pants and underwear down and touched her all over her body,” according to a 2013 lawsuit the family filed against L.A. Unified. The county’s Department of Mental Health conducted an assessment and found that the girl was fearful of being left alone, and met criteria for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Carrillo said.

She told the doctor that she did not want to discuss her assault. “I don’t want to cry,” she said.

The lawsuit accused the district of failing to protect her from the assault because of a lack of supervision on campus and inadquate security. That lawsuit is pending.

During pretrial depositions in the case in October 2014, a sheriff’s detective who was investigating the incident said under questioning from Carrillo that the principal had been evasive and uncooperative during the investigation.

“She wanted to brush me -- brush it away,” the detective said, according to a transcript of the deposition that Carrillo provided to The Times.

Carrillo said that this prompted the district’s attorneys to begin pressuring and bullying the girl and her family. “They began the campaign when the sheriffs were not on their side,” he said.

The district’s lawyers deposed the student over the course of three sessions for about four hours and 40 minutes total, Carrillo said.

In September 2014, Carrillo told Coleman about the victim’s emotional trauma, warning him that his deposition questions would trigger crying and flashbacks to the assault. At the first deposition in February 2015, the victim began to cry before she was asked a single question.

According to a report cited in the claim, on the first two deposition dates, the victim “was emotionally unable to complete the deposition.”

The interviews were completed in April with the victim’s mother nearby. Coleman was asked if he could provide a female attorney to ask the questions. He said she was unavailable, according to the claim.

In July, L.A. Unified had a male independent mental examiner assess the victim, even though Carrillo specifically asked for a woman, he said. A psychologist who examined the student in December of last year also said that she was suffering from PTSD, Carrillo said, and that she was particularly afraid of men.

The claim specifically names LAUSD board member Monica Garcia, alleging she “permitted, condoned, and ratified” the victim’s “re-traumatization” by the male doctor. A representative for Garcia said she was unavailable to comment.

No one was arrested for the alleged assault, Carrillo said. The student no longer attends school in LAUSD, he said. She and her family have moved out of the district.

The district is still open to “reaching a reasonable settlement with the student,” according to its statement. Carrillo said the family intends to file a lawsuit over the new claims.

Reach Sonali Kohli on Twitter @sonali_kohli or by email at sonali.kohli@latimes.com.


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