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Sacramento and city’s school district to pay $52M to settle classroom sex abuse case

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Sacramento and the city’s school district will pay more than $52 million to settle lawsuits alleging negligence by officials after an aide pleaded guilty to sexually abusing at least eight elementary school students nearly a decade ago.

Joshua Vasquez was sentenced to 150 years to life in prison in 2016 after admitting he molested children as young as seven in a classroom at Mark Twain Elementary School. Vasquez worked as program leader for the city’s START after-school program and also as a part-time employee with the Sacramento City Unified School District.

A settlement agreement finalized last week calls for a $40 million payout for five of the victims, with the city paying about 60% and the district the rest, the Sacramento Bee reported Sunday. A separate deal for a sixth victim resulted in a $12.5 million payout.

As part of the settlement, the city also provided one-page letters to the victims lauding their courage for coming forward.

“Please accept our sincere apologies for what you suffered due to Vasquez’s conduct and we hope our settlement of this matter will help you in your efforts to heal from this horrible and most regrettable experience at the hands of our former employee,” said the letter, signed by Jackie Beecham, the city’s director of youth, parks and community enrichment.

Officials said since the cases were brought to light, the district has implemented a series of policy and procedure changes, including additional training and stricter requirements for how and when a staff member can be alone with students.

Article Topic Follows: AP California

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