LOS ANGELES – A $52 million settlement has been reached in a consolidated lawsuit brought against the Los Angeles Unified School District in which multiple plaintiffs alleged they were sexually abused by a former wrestling coach at John H. Francis Polytechnic High School in Sun Valley, attorneys announced Wednesday.
Lawyers for the plaintiffs had filed court papers in July with Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Richard J. Burdge stating that a “conditional” accord was reached in the cases filed against the LAUSD, the Boys & Girls Club of San Fernando Valley in Pacoima and the former coach, Terry Gillard, just days before the scheduled start of trial. The accord has now been finalized.
“The size of this settlement highlights the tremendous harm done to our clients by Terry Gillard and the abject failure of LAUSD to protect the students at Francis Polytechnic High School from this truly deranged predator,” plaintiffs’ attorney Morgan Stewart said. “Our lawsuit also exposed LAUSD’s Student Safety Investigation Team (SSIT) as a fraud and a public relations gimmick.”
Attorneys for the various defendants were not immediately available for comment.
The consolidated proceedings involved 14 victims of abuse from 2014- 17. Gillard was sentenced in October 2019 to 71 years in state prison for dozens of sex crimes involving nine children, some who were preteens at the time their coach abused them.
In May 2019, a jury found Gillard, then 58 and a Sylmar resident, guilty of 47 felony and misdemeanor counts involving seven boys and two girls he met through the wrestling teams at Poly High School and the Boys & Girls Club of San Fernando Valley between 1991 and 2017.
The lawsuits alleged the LAUSD and the Boys & Girls Club of San Fernando Valley had prior knowledge of Gillard’s misconduct and should have removed him from having contact with children.
The plaintiffs’ attorneys alleged the litigation spotlighted failures in the LAUSD’s SSIT, which was lauded by the district because it was comprised of former law enforcement professionals retained to investigate allegations of sexual abuse against LAUSD staff members.
The plaintiffs’ attorneys alleged that LAUSD administrators forbade the SSIT from fully investigating claims of misconduct and further preclude them from providing their opinions on credibility or conclusions as to alleged abusers that they investigate. This effectively rendered the entire purpose of any investigation as worthless, according to the plaintiffs’ attorneys.
Although the LAUSD investigator believed that Gillard was lying about denying sexual misconduct in 2016, the investigator was not permitted to relay that information to administrators who were deciding whether to permit Gillard to return to Poly High School, the plaintiffs’ attorneys alleged.
The administration allowed Gillard back on campus and he continued to sexually abuse minor students, the plaintiffs’ lawyers alleged.