Education

Lawyer for fired LAUSD teacher responds with class-action lawsuit

FILE: Well-known Hobart Elementary School teacher Rafe Esquith speaks at a KPCC Crawford Family Forum event in 2013.
FILE: Well-known Hobart Elementary School teacher Rafe Esquith speaks at a KPCC Crawford Family Forum event in 2013.
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The Los Angeles Unified school board this week voted to fire nationally recognized teacher Rafe Esquith, apparently over allegations he inappropriately touched children and had photos and video of a sexual nature on his computer.

His attorneys have denied the allegations.

An LAUSD spokeswoman confirmed Esquith is no longer being paid by the district. 

A district employee not authorized to talk about the decision but who is close to the school board said members approved Esquith's firing in closed session on Tuesday.

When he was pulled from his classroom at Hobart Boulevard Elementary School he was asked to report to a school district building with dozens of other teachers. Teachers refer to this process as "teacher jail."  

Esquith's attorneys held a press conference Thursday to denounce the firing and to announce the filing of a class action lawsuit to dismantle the "teacher jail" process. 

"He wants to shut down teacher jail. Mostly he wanted to teach. That’s not going to happen anymore not at Hobart, not by L.A. Unified and he wants to never let this happen to any other teacher again," said criminal defense lawyer Mark Geragos.

The lawsuit alleges that damages against all L.A. Unified employees in the potential class amounts to $1 billion.

About 140 district teachers and classified staff are currently in this status, having been suspended with pay, an LAUSD spokeswoman said.

Esquith taught at Hobart in Koreatown for over 30 years. He filed a lawsuit in August charging the district mishandled his case, which began when a staffer reported Esquith made a joke in class about a naked king based on a passage from "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn." 

The district later raised the more serious allegations, involving touching of minors before and after Esquith joined LAUSD and images on his school computer.

Esquith authored several books, including New York Times bestsellers and has been frequently quoted by teachers who have heard him speak.

His nonprofit Hobart Shakespeareans, a musical and theater production company made up of students in his classroom, has performed in numerous cities around the country.