Sex abuse victims of a teacher at Miramonte Elementary School are in court suing the LAUSD in a civil case
By John Cádiz Klemack | KNBC4 | http://bit.ly/1s0Y1cw
The Los Angeles Unified School District has struck a new cord with victims and their families in the Miramonte sex abuse scandal civil case claiming it has the right to potentially "call out" some of the victims as undocumented immigrants. John Cádiz Klemack reports for NBC4 News at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 8, 2014.
Wednesday, Oct 8, 2014 • Updated at 9:56 PM PDT :: Attorneys for the Los Angeles Unified School District asked the judge in the Miramonte civil case this week to deny a request by two attorneys for the plaintiffs that the victims' immigration status be kept out of the case.
Attorney Luis Carrillo filed a motion on June 3 to preclude evidence of plaintiff's immigration status.
A similar motion was filed by attorney John Manly on Sept.
In the district's response, attorney Alison Beanum makes the argument that California law allows for immigration status to be considered when a jury discusses damages for future potential loss of earnings or wages.
In a statement from Sean Rossall, an independent public relations spokesman, hired by attorneys representing the district to handle all Miramonte-related media inquiries, district officials say they would not include immigration status unless the plaintiffs entered it into the record.
The statement reads: "The school district has not and does not intend to raise immigration status in this case unless first raised by the plaintiffs.
"The lawyers for the school district have an ethical obligation to preserve our right to present a complete story to a jury, protect taxpayer dollars and safeguard educational resources for the more than 600,000 students served by Los Angeles Unified."
The statement continues: "The school district and the board of education not only respect the rights and privacy of plaintiffs, but they have been leaders in the area of welcoming and supporting students regardless of their immigration status.
"Our recent decision to welcome children immigrating to this country to flee the violence and oppression in Central America is just one example of the school board’s and district leadership’s deep commitment to serving all student’s regardless of immigration status.”
Carrillo argues that bringing in the issue of immigration is a scare tactic, intended to instill fear in the victims.
"They don't have to bring in this," Carrillo says. "This is just another smoke screen to stir up the jury against the plaintiffs."
Carrillo would not say if any of the 65 plaintiffs had planned to request damages for future wages, but district officials say there are experts planned to testify to such once the trial begins.
NBC4 Legal Analyst Royal Oakes says the LAUSD has the right, by California Law, to make immigration an issue.
"In general, the plaintiffs have a right to file a motion to say, 'judge, don't let them tell the jury that the kids are undocumented,'" Oakes says, "but an exception to that rule, the school district is entitled to say, 'if they want damages for lost wages over decades, we get to tell the jury these kids are undocumented so they'll make less money.'"
The LAUSD is the second-largest school district in the country with 70 percent of its 600,000-plus students being minorities.
Oakes says in the court of public opinion, the message the district is sending could backfire.
"If the school district wins the right to tell the jury why these kids aren't gonna make much money in the future because they're undocumented, there could be a backlash," Oakes says. "The jury could actually get angry at the school district for beating up on molestation victims just because they happen to be undocumented."
Jury selection for the case begins Nov. 4.