Attorneys for the L.A. Unified School District are asking that a judge rule in their favor next week in a civil lawsuit alleging that the school district and Rosewood Elementary School’s principal were negligent for not properly supervising a Rosewood teacher and investigating complaints that he had abused a 10-year-old student in his fourth grade class.
The teacher, Thelmo Garcia, pled no contest in 2015 to a felony child abuse charge for putting a plastic bag over the head of a 10-year-old girl in his class at Rosewood. Last August, that conviction was reduced to a misdemeanor after Garcia completed child-abuse counseling, performed 100 days of Caltrans work and complied with all the terms of his original probation.
The civil lawsuit, which seeks an unspecified amount of damages, alleges other abuses, some of which are contradicted in a deposition by the young student.
“In or around August of 2014 through February of 2015, Garcia harassed Plaintiff and groomed Plaintiff for abuse,” it says. “The abuse, molestation, and harassment include: hitting Plaintiff; stomping on Plaintiff’s feet; locking Plaintiff in closets; pressing on Plaintiff’s ‘pressure points’: stabbing Plaintiff with pens and pencils; and hi-fiving Plaintiff with thumb tacks.” Other documents filed with the lawsuit say Garcia called the young student “’tonta face’ and other derogatory names” and wrote on her face with a marker.
The lawsuit was filed on behalf of a woman using the pseudonym Jane PC Doe to protect the identity of her daughter, who is identified as Jane EM Doe.
“As a result of the above-described conduct, Plaintiff has suffered and continues to suffer great pain of mind and body, shock, emotional distress, physical manifestations of emotional distress, embarrassment, loss of self-esteem, disgrace, humiliations, and loss of enjoyment of life…” the lawsuit claims. It alleges that LAUSD and Rosewood Elementary Principal Linda Kaye-Crowder “knew or should have reasonably known of the dangerous, exploitative and abusive propensities of Garcia,” claiming there were other instances they knew about.
Another document filed as part of the suit lists a dozen possible witnesses who could document the student’s claims. WEHOville has determined that a number of them were classmates of Jane EM Doe.
Some of the more extreme examples of alleged abuse such as locking the student in closets, stabbing her with pencils and pens and “hi-fiving” her with thumb tacks appear to be contradicted in the transcript of a video interview with the student in which she says those things didn’t happen.
In its request that L.A. Superior Court Judge Rafael Ongkeko rule it its favor, lawyers for the school district argue that Principal Kaye-Crowder is immune from liability under provisions of a state law that says “a public employee is not liable for an injury resulting from his act or omission where the act or omission was the result of the exercise of the discretion vested in him, whether or not such discretion be abused.” It also cites another law that says no public entity or public employee is required to police protective services in an apparent allusion to Doe’s charge that the school and Kaye-Crowder should have put in place measures to protect students from the abuse she alleges.
In her deposition, Kaye-Crowder acknowledges various complaints about Garcia, who she hired as a teacher in 2011. Those included leaving a student behind at a museum with the students behavioral aide after the student refused to get on the school bus when a field trip had ended, hitting a student on the head with a marker because she wasn’t paying attention and grabbing another student by the arm when she got to close to the stage at school concert. Kaye-Crowder said she talked with Garcia about each of those matters. However, another incident, details of which are redacted in the court filing, prompted Kaye-Crowder to contact the Los Angeles Police Department and the Department of Child and Family Services. Details of Kaye-Crowder’s responses to the other incidents are being kept secret at the request of LAUSD’s attorney.
Rosewood, located at 503 N. Croft Ave. just north of Rosewood Avenue, sits on West Hollywood’s southern border with Los Angeles. It offers classes for students from kindergarten through sixth grade and is one of two public elementary schools in or very near WeHo.