S.M. v Los Angeles Unified School District Appeal
Courts have long held that School teachers and their supervisors are responsible for the children in their care. This concept has become such a commonly referenced ideal that it even has its own terminology: in loco parentis. The underlying principle, as the courts have reasoned, is that during a child’s stay at school the adults (teachers, principals, supervisors, etc.) have both additional rights and responsibilities towards the child as these adults are acting in place of the child’s parents. For this reason, and many others, parents and children alike place a certain amount of trust in the teachers and staff supervising kids during a school day. Parents maintain certain expectations about the ways in which their children will be treated and protected by members of the school district. Without this level of trust public school systems would find it incredibly difficult to function on a day-to-day basis. When that trust is violated in an egregious manner, parents are left asking who is responsible.
Mr. Hermida’s Classroom
In 2010 Elkis Hermida was a middle school math teacher in the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD). In 2010 he set his sights on a student in his school building. She was 13 years old. With the assistance of social media Hermida began to converse with the child and eventually invited her to his classroom. It was there that they first kissed. He began texting her and discussing “secrets” that the two shared, which would eventually include sex. The two had sex on the school grounds and later met at motels nearby. After their relationship came to light Hermida admitted to their sexual encounters and was convicted for having lewd acts with a minor. There was no dispute over whether he was responsible for such criminal activity and Hermida was sentenced to two years in jail.
S.M. v Los Angeles Unified School District
The following year, Veronica Perez, the minor child’s guardian, brought suit against LAUSD for negligent hiring and supervision of Hermida and negligent supervision of the minor. Plaintiff’s counsel argued that Hermida openly hugged female students on campus, touched and caressed their hands, flirted with females, acted unprofessionally, and allowed female students to sit on his lap during class. Counsel also alleged that during his conference periods, when teachers were not supposed to be with students, Hermida would engage in oral sex with the minor in his classroom. Defense counsel for the district argued that the minor had a sexual history and consented to the sexual relations with her teacher. The appellate court ruled that this information was only heard by the jury as the result of the trial judge’s error. Judge Richard Kirschner opined. “On appeal, the District continues to maintain that a minor student who is the victim of sexual abuse by a teacher bears responsibility for preventing that abuse. The District was wrong in trial court and is wrong now. There is no case or statutory authority or pervasive reasoning supporting the notion that students sexually victimized by their teachers can be contributorily responsible for the harm they suffer.”
The appellate process is capable of righting wrongs and preventing further victimization. In order to ensure it lives up to its potential, appellants need experienced and knowledgeable appellate attorneys. When you have questions about how to file a civil appeal turn to the attorneys at the Brownstone Appellate Law Firm.