The Los Angeles Unified School District is under fire for arguing during a sexual abuse lawsuit that a 14-year-old girl was at least partially responsible for sexual abuse perpetrated by her 8th grade teacher.
Elkis Hermida coaxed the girl into sexual acts both on and off the Edison Middle School campus over a period of seven months in 2010 and 2011. He began by contacting her on social media when she was 13 years old and then moved on to texting about sex. He then started inviting her to his classroom to kiss and eventually have sex there and in various motels. A jury convicted him of lewd acts with a minor and sentenced him to three years in prison.
Two years later, a jury in the sexual abuse lawsuit decided that the district was not negligent in supervising Hermida and was therefore not accountable for her emotional distress. The girl’s attorney, Holly Boyer, is appealing the decision after it came to light last year that Judge Lawrence Cho permitted evidence of her past sexual history to be used in the trial. That permission, according to Boyer, marred the proceedings and allowed the defense to argue that the girl was partially responsible for her own abuse.
W. Keith Wyatt, the LAUSD’s attorney at the time, stated last year that it would be more dangerous for a 14-year-old to cross the street than it would be to have sex with a teacher. Boyer rejected his statement saying, “People in positions of authority use their positions to build relationships of trust and slowly introduce sex to get the child to acquiesce. To then point to the child and say ‘you let it happen’ is really crazy.” Wyatt has since been barred from the case by the LAUSD, but in their appellate brief they still claimed that the girl was partially responsible because she lied to her parents and “thwarted the District’s ability to find out about it and stop it.”
One member from the L.A. Board of Education has voiced her opposition to the LAUSD’s arguments repeatedly since last year. This month, Monica Ratliff said, “LAUSD should never argue that a girl is responsible for her own sexual abuse. Such an argument by a school district was appalling then and continues to be appalling now.”
The case did, however, bring about the passage of SB 14, which bars defendants accused of sexually abusing minors in civil suits from arguing that the sex was consensual.
Source: Los Angeles Times, 2 September 2015.
Photo by Eutah Mizushima via Unsplash.