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6 Boys in Abuse Case to Receive $6.8 Million

Two O.C. school systems settle with children accusing a teacher of molestation. One referred him to the other despite suspicions.

August 01, 2003|Mike Anton | Times Staff Writer

A Huntington Beach school district that recommended a teacher for another classroom job even though officials allegedly suspected him of acting inappropriately around students has agreed to pay nearly $6.8 million to six boys who say they were molested by him.

The Ocean View School District's insurer will make payouts ranging from $412,500 to $3.75 million in the lawsuit involving Jason Abhyankar, who is serving 24 years in prison for molesting three of the boys.

"We felt that if the case had proceeded to trial, the district would be exposed to liability and possibly more substantial damages depending on the whim and caprice of a jury," said Gary Gibeaut, an attorney for the Ocean View district. "Given the facts of the case, it was better to settle."

Two of the boys were students at Ocean View's Village View Elementary when Abhyankar taught there from 1997 to 1999. Four of the boys met Abhyankar at Portola Hills Elementary in the Saddleback Valley Unified School District when he taught there after leaving Ocean View. All are ages 14 to 16.

Saddleback Valley Unified agreed to pay $50,000, those familiar with the July 1 settlement said.

A lawyer representing the district declined to comment. David Ring, an attorney for the plaintiffs, said he and the boys' parents could not comment on the settlement with the districts because of a confidentiality agreement.

Authorities began investigating Abhyankar in early 2000 after a complaint from a Portola Hills student.

The civil suit in Orange County Superior Court was filed before Abhyankar stood trial last year.

The suit alleged that Ocean View officials knew that Abhyankar had "improper behavior with boys" and confronted him about it in the fall of 1998. When Abhyankar threatened to sue them for defamation, district officials offered to write him a letter of recommendation if he agreed to leave the district, the suit contended.

Gibeaut said the settlement included an "expressed denial" of wrongdoing by the Ocean View district.

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