$5M To Former Arroyo HS Student Who Was Sexually Abused By A Convicted Pedophile Teacher

Richard Daniels (Photo courtesy of the El Monte Police Department)

A Los Angeles jury has awarded $5 million in damages to a former student at Arroyo High School who was victimized by a convicted pedophile teacher with a long history of sexually abusing teenagers at different schools.

Science teacher Richard Paul Daniels was convicted in 2015 of abusing the student — identified in court papers as "Jane Doe" — over a two-year period, when she was between 15 and 17 years old.

Daniels had been transferred by El Monte Union School District officials to Arroyo after he pleaded guilty in 2004 to a battery charge after he was caught fondling freshman students at Mountain View High School. In April 2005, Daniels was sentenced to three years of probation and 30 days of community service.

El Monte district officials decided to allow Daniels to continue his teaching career and transferred him to Arroyo, where he began abusing Jane Doe in 2013. According to court documents, she said school officials were aware that Daniels was touching her inappropriately and eventually had sex with her.

Daniels was later arrested and pleaded no contest to a felony count of performing a lewd act on a minor. He was sentenced to three years in prison.

After the criminal conviction, Jane Doe's lawyers sued the school system for damages. The jury verdict handed down this week orders the school district to pay $2 million. Daniels is responsible for the remaining $3 million.

Michael Carrillo, an attorney for the plaintiff, called the case an example of "pass the trash." He said the school district should have never transferred Daniels to Arroyo after his guilty plea in 2004.

The jury verdict was handed down in the same week that another El Monte school district employee was charged with sex crimes. Fidel Camarena Dominguez, a high school track coach at Rosemead High School, pleaded not guilty on Tuesday to unlawful sexual intercourse after it was discovered he had a long-term sexual relationship with a minor at the school.

In a statement, El Monte school superintendent Dr. Edward Zuniga said that the district does not tolerate "any behavior that compromises the security of our students." He said the district vets all employees through a rigorous screening process, and provides staff annual mandated reporter and sexual harassment training.

"As this civil complaint comes to a resolution, we will continue to take all accusations of misconduct seriously and will work with the proper authorities to ensure our campuses and students remain safe," he said.

Carrillo said his office sees cases of sex abuse in schools "pop up all the time." He said school districts need to take action when students report troubling behavior by school staff.

"They keep hiding, and giving the benefit of the doubt to the teachers, instead of worrying about their number-one priority, which should be the students," Carrillo said. "A lot of the administrators, and the people that are in charge of supervising these teachers, they look the other way instead of doing their job."

In the age of the #MeToo movement, there has been pressure on school districts to do more about addressing sexual abuse. Last fall, the Los Angeles Unified School District agreed to pay $5 million to a woman who was sexually abused by her middle school math teacher.

Carrillo says he hopes that the trend of successful lawsuits against school districts will change the attitude surrounding reporting and disciplining sexual predators.

"Jane Doe's hope is that this will send a message to the district to clean up their act," he said.

An El Monte school district spokesperson said the district is exploring its options for an appeal.

A call to an attorney representing the district, Dana McCune, was not returned before publication.

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