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LAUSD Keeps Blaming Student For Having Sex With Teacher
L.A. Unified School District is still arguing that a 14-year-old girl was somewhat responsible for having a sexual relationship with her 28-year-old teacher. After firing a lawyer for comparing deciding to have sex with your older teacher to crossing the street, LAUSD is still trying to argue that an underage girl was somewhat to blame for the months-long sexual relationship her teacher carried on with her, the L.A. Times reports. Their reasons include that she lied to her parents in order to rendezvous with him, and elements of her past sexual history.
Elkis Hermida, 28, was a math teacher at Thomas Edison Middle School in Southeast L.A. In December of 2010, he began an inappropriate relationship with a 14-year-old female student that lasted for over six months. He was sentenced to three years in prison for lewd acts against a minor in July of 2011. In 2013, a jury threw out the girl's claims that the district was negligent and therefore responsible for her emotional damage, which led to an appeal.
The girl's lawyer, Holly Boyer, is arguing that putting blame on the girl completely dismisses the fact that Hermida "groomed" the girl to be abused. "Grooming" is a word that gets used a lot in cases of abuse, and for good reason. Many abusers have a history of prepping their victims, first by gaining their trust then slowly introducing elements of sex or violence.
Boyer said that Hermida first approached the girl via social media when she was only 13. Soon, he began talking with her about sex, framing the conversation as "secrets." He then kissed her in his classroom, then moved the sexual relationship to area motels.
"People in positions of authority use their position 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," Boyer said.
Boyer also faults Judge Lawrence Cho for allowing LAUSD to bring up the girl's past sexual history, though the district claims that the jury didn't consider any of that and that their decision was based on the idea that the district wasn't negligent because they didn't know about Hermida's actions. Boyer counters that bringing up the girl's sexual history influenced the case.
In the previous civil suit proceedings, LAUSD lawyers argued that the girl, although 14, consented to the sex. They argued that the family was suing because they wanted money, not because the girl was suffering from emotional distress. One LAUSD lawyer, W. Keith Wyatt, told KPCC that, "Making a decision as to whether or not to cross the street when traffic is coming, that takes a level of maturity and that's a much more dangerous decision than to decide, 'Hey, I want to have sex with my teacher.'" LAUSD fired him after making those statements.
While 18 is always the age of consent in a criminal case in California, a civil case is different. There are two state appellate court rulings where a lawyer was able to argue that a minor gave consent: a 2001 case where a 38-year-old father had a relationship with his own 16-year-old daughter, and a 2009 case where a 24-year-old supervisor of a Starbucks had a relationship with an employee who was 16.