Court: Teen cannot be held responsible for sex with teacher
Sep. 17, 2015
LOS ANGELES (AP) — The Los Angeles school district was wrong when it argued that a 14-year-old girl shared responsibility for sexual abuse by a teacher because she consented to the sex, a California appeals court said Wednesday, overturning a jury verdict in favor of the district.
Lawyers and advocates for sexual abuse victims had said the legal tactic used by the district was surprising, and the appeals court seemed to agree in its ruling.
As a minor, the girl was a crime victim even if she agreed to the sex, and crime victims cannot be held responsible for the harm they suffer, a division of the 2nd District Court of Appeal said.
The girl had accused the district in a lawsuit of failing to adequately supervise her 8th grade math teacher, Elkis Hermida. She appealed after a jury found the district was not negligent.
"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," Judge Richard Kirschner wrote. "The district was wrong in the trial court and is wrong now."
The court said a judge was wrong to instruct jurors that they could find the girl at fault and to allow the introduction of her sexual history.
The district said it was still reviewing the decision and had no comment.
"The court of appeal echoed what we were saying, which is that children who are abused by their teachers at school can never be blamed for their injury," said Holly Boyer, an attorney for the girl.
Boyer said the case prompted passage of state legislation that prohibits consent from being used as a defense in civil cases alleging sexual battery of minors by adults in positions of authority.
Hermida first had sex with the girl in March 2011, according to the appeals court ruling. He was arrested after one of the girl's friends told a teacher two months later.
Hermida pleaded no contest to one count of lewd acts upon a victim aged 14. The Associated Press does not name victims of sex crimes.