Lawyers representing the plaintiffs in a lawsuit against the Los Angeles Unified School District are accusing district officials of "forcing" an employee to change her declaration regarding the handling of newly discovered child abuse reports.
The charge comes in a motion filed Friday by the Law Offices of Luis Carrillo and the Henrichs Law Firm, which are among plaintiffs' co-counsels in the suit filed by 71 children over the sex abuse scandal at Miramonte Elementary School.
The motion asks L.A. Superior Court Judge Mary Strobel to compel the district to immediately produce the declaration of Rosa Gianopoulos, a senior office technician in L.A. Unified's general counsel's office. It also asks the judge to sanction the defense for missing the court's deadline to produce the document.
On Thursday, KPCC reported that Gianopoulos had given a declaration as part of a court inquiry into the fate of thousands of child abuse reports collected over 20 years by the school district. In April, L.A. Unified said it had destroyed all of the documents, but the subsequent discoveries of hundreds of reports prompted Strobel to order a poll of about 100 current and former staffers in L.A. Unified's general counsel's office.
The school district missed a Sept. 19 court deadline to produce Gianopoulos' declaration, which concerns her scanning on to an L.A. Unified server another 262 newly discovered reports of suspected child abuse, according to the district's lawyers.
On Thursday, L.A. Unified's attorneys told the judge that Gianopoulos had provided a declaration on Sept. 22, but "we believe it to contain errors," and they did not get a chance to "confer with Ms. Gianopoulos to make the appropriate corrections because she became ill" that day, "left to seek medical care and has not returned to work since."
The plaintiffs' attorneys' asserted in Friday's motion that they believe Gianopoulos' statement "does not contain 'errors,'" that L.A. Unified "pressured" her to make changes "after Ms. Gianopoulos had signed her declaration," and that she "became 'ill' as a result of pressure from her superiors and/or because...Gianopoulos was reprimanded or disciplined because of the 'errors' in her declaration."
L.A. Unified spokesman Sean Rossal dismissed the allegations in the motion.
"We have transparently communicated with the court and plaintiffs’ counsel on this matter," Rossel said in a written statement. "As we have stated, we want to ensure that accurate information is provided to the court - we would hope that accuracy is what plaintiffs’ counsel would also want. Ms. Gianopoulous has been out ill. Unfortunately, it is becoming much too routine for Mr. Carrillo to suggest something sinister (or untoward) happened."
Attorneys will gather in court Monday for a hearing on the plaintiffs' motion.