LAUSD offered $17 million Wednesday to settle lawsuits by about 40 students and their families alleging sexual abuse at Miramonte Elementary School. The plaintiffs' attorney is scoffing at the offer.
LAUSD attorneys call the settlement reasonable, saying they have to take into account the district's limited financial resources and taxpayer dollars.
"These offers were really, we felt, respectful of the needs of the students' both health and educational needs and would provide for them in the future," said LAUSD attorney Sean Rossall.
The offers amount to about $435,000 per student, falling below the $470,000-per-student settlements the district reached with 58 other students in March.
"The lifetime mental healthcare treatment of the kids by itself will exceed over half-a-million dollars, and these offers don't come close to that amount," said Carrillo, who represents the students. He says he will recommend all of his clients reject the offer.
"These offers do not take into account all the emotional pain and suffering that the kids are suffering: their PTSD, their depression, eating disorders, sleep disorders, anxiety, isolation, withdrawal," said Carrillo.
Former Miramonte teacher Mark Berndt is accused of carrying out most of the alleged abuse at the school. He is awaiting trial on 23 counts of lewd acts with children. He allegedly took photos of them with semen-tainted spoons or cookies in their mouths.
According to the lawsuits, LAUSD officials knew as early as 1990 that Berndt was involved in sexual misconduct.
Another former Miramonte teacher, Martin Springer, is also awaiting trial on three felony counts of lewd acts with a child.
"To me, it's just part of the same pattern: They don't protect the kids, and after the kids are damaged, they don't do justice to the kids," said Carrillo.
Rossall says it's making a good-faith effort to compensate the students.
"Our biggest thing is we want to make sure that we are doing everything to protect the students and to help them heal and improve trust, but again, that has to be balanced with our obligation to protect taxpayer resources," said Rossall.
According to the attorneys the students and their families have 30 days to respond to the offers. Cases involving more than 20 other students are still pending.