In September of 2022, Richard Turner was charged with sexually assaulting at least 10 students at two San Fernando Valley high schools in Los Angeles, CA. The attacks happened while Turner was ostensibly treating the victims for sports injuries. This latest scandal has the same frustrating earmarks as previous child sex abuse scandals within the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD). Multiple children are abused, one of the children and/or parents report the behavior to the proper school authorities, and either nothing is done or the situation is made worse. Meanwhile, the abuse continues for months and even years, claiming more innocent victims.
This might sound like something from a horror movie but sadly, these series of events have happened multiple times within LAUSD. In the Turner case, a girl came forward in 2017 to report inappropriate behavior but she was brushed aside. Now five years later at least 10 girls have given similar accounts of abuse. In Turner’s case, the abuse appears to only have stopped when schools were shuttered during the height of the COVID pandemic.
Attorney J.J. Dominguez of The Dominguez Firm represents one of Turner’s victims. He stresses that LAUSD must be held accountable, “LAUSD needs to really look into how they investigate reports of child sexual abuse. Doing nothing or transferring the employee to another school where they continue abusing children, which LAUSD has done, only creates more victims.” Right now, the only recourse comes after the fact. Parents of the victims can hire a child sexual abuse lawyer to represent them and make LAUSD pay for their inaction. However, that doesn’t erase what their children have gone through.
There are several changes LAUSD and all schools can make to help prevent or limit child sexual abuse. One of the most important is improving the hiring process and performing thorough background checks on individuals who will be working at a school in any capacity. It should go beyond just LAUSD employees to include independent contractors. The district described Turner as a “contract vendor” who worked on a “limited basis.” It offered no specifics, which is in itself troubling. It’s not clear if he was vetted but moving forward that should be the norm, with no exceptions.
Reports of child sexual abuse within LAUSD need to be handled more effectively. For this to happen, changes must occur. Of course, everyone deserves to be considered innocent until proven guilty. However, the safety of our children must come first. One of the most notorious policies is the district’s reassigning of teachers under investigation for child sexual abuse. There have been cases of reassigned teachers continuing to sexually abuse students at their new schools. By ending this LAUSD will take a positive first step towards actually combating child sexual abuse instead of apologizing for it yet again.