A judge issued a split ruling Tuesday in a lawsuit involving multiple male and female plaintiffs who are suing the Los Angeles Unified School District and the Boys and Girls Club of San Fernando, alleging they were sexually abused by a former wrestling coach when they were minors.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Richard J. Burdge Jr. was asked by the LAUSD to dismiss two of the claims within the lawsuit, sexual harassment and intentional infliction of emotional distress. The other causes of action, which mostly involve negligence, were not challenged with Tuesday’s motion.
The alleged abuses involved minors who Terry Terrell Gillard met through the wrestling teams at John H. Francis Polytechnic High School and the Boys and Girls Club of San Fernando between 1991 and 2017, according to evidence presented during his criminal case trial. The victims were between the ages of 11 and 17.
There were no felony counts related to several of the plaintiffs, all of whom are now young adults.
The judge agreed to toss the sexual harassment allegation, finding that it only applied to business establishments. He concurred with LAUSD attorney Matthew R. Hicks, who argued a school district was not a commercial enterprise, but instead a place where children are educated.
Plaintiffs’ attorney Saul E. Wolf argued some state courts have found school districts to be business establishments, but Hicks said that are no such cases.
The judge left the emotional distress claim in the suit for now, finding that the plaintiffs had provided sufficient facts showing two school administrators failed to act to address the situation in reckless disregard for the mental well-being of the former students.
The judge dismissed the claims against the LAUSD and the Boys and Girls Club for triple damages, finding that there was nothing in the plaintiffs’ complaint showing the district covered up Gillard’s actions. He also struck some of the punitive damages claims against the LAUSD administrators.
Gillard was sentenced in October 2019 in San Fernando Superior Court to 71 years behind bars after being convicted May 7 of that year of three felony counts each of committing a lewd act on a child, lewd acts on a child 14 or 15 and oral copulation of a person under 18, along with 28 felony counts of procuring a child to engage in a lewd act and 10 misdemeanor counts of child molestation.
Evidence presented during the criminal trial showed that Gillard sexually abused children as far back as 1991, when he directed an 11-year old to have sex with an adult woman in the backseat of his Cadillac while he watched from the front seat.
Other criminal trial evidence showed that Gillard directed child wrestlers between 2014 and 2017 to perform sex acts while he watched, including in his vehicles and in a van owned and maintained by the Boys and Girls Club, according to the plaintiff’s’ lawyers.
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