A former high school student has sued the Los Angeles Unified School District, claiming she has been sexually abused by her teacher at Hamilton High School since 2009.
Teacher Barry Smolin is also named in the lawsuit filed in the Los Angeles District Supreme Court on Tuesday.
Smolin began caring for the student at the age of 14, supplying her with drugs and alcohol and, in one case, giving her money to buy LSD.
“He focuses on her, isolates her, and pays special attention to her,” said senior attorney John C. Taylor of litigation firm Taylor & Ring in Los Angeles. “Manipulates their vulnerability and creates a false sense of trust, all with one goal in mind, namely sexual satisfaction.”
Smolin began sexually abusing the girl when she was 16, with the abuse occurring both in the classroom and off campus, Taylor said.
A LAUSD spokeswoman said in a statement that the district had not been served with the lawsuit and did not comment on any pending litigation.
“However, the safety and well-being of our students remain our top priority,” the statement said.
The lawsuit alleges that other high school teachers were aware of the abuse – one even interrupted Smolin while abusing the child in school – but failed to report him to law enforcement or child protection services as required by law.
“There were a lot of red flags,” said Taylor. “He was physically affectionate and inappropriate with her in public places that other teachers and administrators of the school would have seen and should have seen. Hugs were mandatory, was what he said to her. He would touch her hair. “
Smolin, who did not respond to an email asking for comment, began teaching English in the high school’s English magnet program in 1992. He’s still busy there, said Taylor.
The teacher has attracted attention for his idiosyncratic style, which, according to a 2006 Times profile that also stated that he was often referred to as a “soul,” “jumped off his desk or recited eighteenth-century poetry as a rap artist could “” of the program.
As a songwriter and musician who goes by the name of Mr. Smolin, he is hosting a psychedelic rock show on KPFK-FM. The station did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Hamilton High School has a history of teachers abusing students, Taylor said, pointing to a 2015 deal LAUSD struck with four students accusing music teacher Vance Miller of having sex with them in the mid-1990s through 2010.
The recording suggests that the school district’s guidelines and training on reporting sexual abuse are inadequate, he said.
“I think the mistake is that when the other teachers or administrators see something they either don’t know what to do and therefore don’t act or they know what to do but they don’t,” said Taylor, adding that they may be afraid of getting a colleague into trouble or getting involved in a lawsuit.
“Unfortunately, in all of these decisions, the person who is absolutely hurt is the child,” he said.
Taylor declined to comment on whether the abuse was also reported to law enforcement. .
The woman at the center of the allegations suffered severe trauma, he said.
“She is absolutely entitled to damages for what she went through and the scars she left in terms of trust and relationships,” said Taylor.
“When you have someone to interact with, you are at some level suspicious that that person will always somehow push you and lure you into some sort of corner to get something from you.” he said.