LAUSD cuts ties with lawyer after remarks about a student
Craig Clough | November 14, 2014
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LA Unified said today that one of its long-time outside lawyers, W. Keith Wyatt, would no longer represent the district in legal matters after comments he made regarding a student’s sexual relationship with her math teacher.
“As a school district building and maintaining a strong sense of mutual trust with our students and their families is at the core of being able to provide a safe and productive learning environment,” LA Unified chief counsel, David Holmquist, said in a brief statement issued by the district. “Respect and empathy must be at the core of how we approach these cases, and Mr. Wyatt’s remarks did not reflect that commitment.”
Wyatt’s remarks were made in interview with KPCC referring to a civil suit brought by a 14-year-old student who claims the school district was negligent in not protecting her from former Thomas Edison Middle School teacher Elkis Hermida, who was convicted of committing lewd acts and sentenced in July 2011 to three years in prison.
Wyatt was quoted as saying that “making a decision as to whether or not to cross the street when traffic is coming, that takes a level of maturity and that’s a much more dangerous decision than to decide, ‘Hey, I want to have sex with my teacher,'”
The comments received wide attention from media outlets around the country.
The three-week trial culminated last November with the jury clearing LA Unified of wrong-doing. Wyatt had argued in trial that the girl was mature enough to consent to the sex and bore some responsibility for it happening.
“She lied to her mother so she could have sex with her teacher,” he told KPCC in explaining his courtroom tactics in the case. “She went to a motel in which she engaged in voluntary consensual sex with her teacher. Why shouldn’t she be responsible for that?”
Wyatt, a partner with the law firm Ivie, McNeill & Wyatt since 1986, had been hired as an outside attorney in the case, and has represented the district in legal matters for 27 years, according to the Los Angeles Times.
In his remarks to KPCC, Wyatt cited several older California legal cases to KPCC that he said set precedent for his arguments in court.
The case highlights different legal standards for sexual consent between civil and criminal cases.
The district’s release did not repudiate the tactics Wyatt had used in court to win the case, which had included introducing the girl’s sexual history. Wyatt had issued an apology statement to KPCC after its initial story saying he regretted his words, but it did not sway district leaders.
“Our deepest apologies go out to the young woman and her family, who were hurt by the insensitive remarks of Mr. Wyatt,” Holmquist said.
*Clarifies reason for the district’s action regarding the lawyer.