Judge Rules Negligence Allegation Will Stay in LAUSD Sex Abuse Lawsuit

The suit alleges that L.A. schools did nothing to protect six girls in the Lino Cabrera abuse case

A Los Angeles Superior court judge has pared a consolidated lawsuit brought against Los Angeles Unified on behalf of multiple girls who allege they were molested by former teacher’s assistant Lino Cabrera at Oxnard Street Elementary School in North Hollywood in 2019.

Cabrera, who worked at the school for over a decade, was sentenced to eight years in prison in February 2020 for sexually abusing six female students. He pleaded no contest to one felony count each of continuous sexual abuse and committing a lewd act on a child under 14, along with four misdemeanor counts of child molestation, in exchange for the negotiated sentence. He will also be required to register as a sex offender for life.

Prosecutors allege that LAUSD knew Cabrera was a danger to students but allowed him to stay on campus.

Though LAUSD attorneys maintained there is no law enabling someone to hold a public entity liable on a ratification or authorization theory regarding the sexual battery claim, this case is a sobering echo of other recent cases implying negligence on behalf of LAUSD. As reported by the Los Angeles Times, earlier this month, victims of Terry Gillard–a former Sun Valley High School wrestling coach convicted of molesting nine children–received a $52-million settlement following allegations that LAUSD did nothing to protect the children from the sexual misconduct. And in 2020, LAUSD settled for $18.4 million in another case alleging they knew of the sexual abuse involving two LAUSD teachers and did nothing about it.

In the Cabrera case, Judge Barbara M. Scheper denied LAUSD’s motion to dismiss the entire case on Tuesday but did toss the sexual battery claim involving some of the girls, rejecting their attorneys’ arguments that the district ratified and authorized Lino Cabrera’s alleged sexual abuse of the girls by not suspending or firing him. The judge did, however, allow the negligence cause of action to remain part of the case, finding that there is a triable issue of whether the LAUSD violated its obligation to protect the girls from a foreseeable risk of sexual abuse by Cabrera. The trial for that suit is scheduled for April 10.

The lawsuits were filed in 2020 and the girls were mostly ages 10, 11 and 12 years old at the time. Most of the alleged abuses took place in 2019. “While Cabrera sexually abused, sexually molested and sexually harassed… (the) LAUSD… had knowledge or reason to know that Cabrera took an unusual interest and spent an inordinate amount of time with each plaintiff,” the court papers of the original three plaintiffs allege.

Those plaintiffs further allege that the LAUSD “failed to report and did hide and conceal from students, parents, teachers, law enforcement authorities, civil authorities and/or others the true facts and relevant information necessary to bring Cabrera to justice.”

According to the court papers filed on behalf of other girls in the case, Cabrera had a practice of isolating minors at the school and was also known to many teachers and administrators at Oxnard Elementary who, despite knowing his conduct violated the school and district’s policies for the protection of minors, took either ineffective or no action to prevent his alleged sexual abuses of the girls.

Allegations of inappropriate behavior by Cabrera arose May 16, 2019, and an investigation by the Los Angeles Police Department’s Sexually Exploited Child Unit ensued, according to the LAPD.

City News Service contributed to this report

Stay on top of the latest in L.A. news, food, and culture. Sign up for our newsletters today.