In October 2008, a nightmare began for a 10-year-old boy. His fifth grade teacher, Forrest Stobbe, befriended him and his family, wormed his way into their trust, and all the while was molesting him in the classroom and outside of it. Now five years and a lawsuit later, a jury has ruled that the school district must pay the boy $6.9 million.
It's a huge sum, and according to the Los Angeles Times, one of the largest every awarded in a molestation case. Plaintiffs said the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) should have done more to protect the boy. They claimed that though he had a clean criminal record, there were "abundant warning signs" and complaints from other students about inappropriate behavior by the teacher prior to this boy's molestation. Things like him having private lunches in his classroom with students, which was against school policy, and a girl who reported him acting and touching her inappropriately.
In the boy's case Stobbe reportedly bought him gifts and season passes to amusement parks to which he took him himself. His parents (who you also to question about their responsibility) thought he was such a great guy they even considered asking him to be the boy's godfather. Throughout it all, he was abusing the boy.
It's beyond sick, and I can't imagine the issues with trust, and the nightmares and flashbacks this boy will have for life. There's no sum that can touch that.
Sure the money awarded can pay for therapy and definitely gives some small sense of at least some justice being served, but the bigger benefit of it is not for this boy, but for all of the other boys and girls out there who are potential victims. This ruling sends out a huge message to schools everywhere that they need to be more aware, that they are responsible for our children's safety when we place them in their care. Yes, the teacher is the true criminal here, but it doesn't mean no else is guilty. Hopefully another strong signal will be sent in the upcoming trial of Mark Berndt, who also committed unthinkable acts against children at Miramonte Elementary School in the same school district.
Do you think schools should be responsible when/if teachers molest students?
Image via torbakhopper/Flickr