After nearly a week with no response to our inquiries about allegations the Los Angeles Unified School District destroyed documents that may have held key evidence in child abuse cases within the district, a spokesman admits the documents no longer exist.
In an interview with KPCC, Sean Rossall of Cerrell Associates, the public relations representative hired by one of the law firms representing the district to exclusively handle media inquiries about the Miramonte child abuse scandal, says the documents were destroyed sometime in 2008.
This is devastating,” said victims’ attorney Brian Claypool, who is calling on the United States Department of Justice to begin a federal criminal investigation into LAUSD. “It’s been our goal from day one to prove a pattern and practice of LAUSD harboring child predators. Their intentional destruction of crucial child abuse reports from 15 years demonstrates a patent cover up.”
Rossall tells KPCC “we felt we didn’t have a right to have them,” regarding the destroyed documents, claiming all the documents were destroyed in 2008 when District lawyers believed a section of the California Penal Code meant they “shouldn’t have had them in the first place.”
KPCC says the penal code Rossall cites only refers to disclosure, not possession, of confidential child abuse reports. Rossall called the reports “law enforcement records the district was not in charge of.”
Attorney John Manly, one of eight attorneys representing Miramonte victims calls Rossall’s statements “transparently ridiculous.”
Most educational institutions and youth serving organizations have kids’ best intentions at heart. However, a lack of policies and prevention measures increases the risk of child sexual abuse for even the most well-meaning organizations.
When child sexual abuse does happen within an organization, a rapid response by staff and administration is vital.
The alleged offender should be immediately removed from contact with children and depending on the state’s reporting requirements, law enforcement and/or child protective services should be notified immediately. Organizations that do not report abuse and continue to allow offenders to have access to children should be held legally responsible for their actions. Finally, we’re beginning to see this happen.
Cases like this highlight why we as parents and communities should expect, require, and demand that ALL organizations serving our children put policies in place that protect them from sexual abuse – and that hold those who would abuse them accountable.