A 14-year-old former Los Angeles Unified student was awarded $23 million in damages Tuesday for sexual misconduct he endured at the hands of his elementary school teacher.
A Los Angeles Superior Court jury deliberated for less than five hours before finding in favor of the teen, who was identified in the suit as Walter "Matt" Doe. A lawsuit was filed on his behalf in October 2009.
The LAUSD was apportioned 30 percent of the fault, or about $7 million, according to the boy's attorney, Stephen Estey. The teacher, Forrest Stobbe, was found to be 70 percent at fault, but he was dismissed before trial as a defendant in the case and is serving a 16-year prison sentence for the abuse of the plaintiff, Estey said.
Stobbe was the boy's fifth-grade teacher at Queen Anne Elementary School during the 2008-09 school year, Estey said. He abused the boy 10 to 15 times in the classroom and another five times during the summer of 2009, according to Estey.
The district initially offered $25,000 to settle the case, then increased its offer to $2 million just before trial, Estey said.
"We're very pleased with the verdict," Estey said. "We asked for $25 million and we got $23 million. The district just doesn't get it when it comes to protecting kids."
LAUSD General Counsel David Holmquist insisted the safety of children was the district's top priority.
"We are all impacted when a child is hurt," he said. "We take our duty to protect our students seriously and are continually looking for ways that we can strengthen our screening and reporting processes to ensure that no child is ever hurt in this way. Although we can't change what happened in this case, we remain committed to doing everything in our power to promote healing and improve trust with those impacted."