Student claims campus officials ignored report that teacher had abused her in high school
By Gary Walker
Loyola Marymount University has joined the list of Los Angeles-area colleges accused
of mishandling a report of sexual assault, only this case involves allegations that a teacher molested a student long before either arrived on campus.
A 25-year-old former LMU student who remains unnamed in Los Angeles Superior Court records filed a lawsuit against LMU on Nov. 20 claiming that school officials ignored her complaints in 2009 that a then-professor had molested her years earlier, instead encouraging the student to enroll in different classes.
In her lawsuit the plaintiff claims that former LMU Visiting Assistant Professor Elizabeth Brewer repeatedly sexually assaulted her while the plaintiff was a student at Notre Dame Academy, an all-girls Catholic high school in West Los Angeles, and Brewer was an English teacher there.
Brewer, 39, was arrested in October at her Culver City home and faces six felony sexual assault charges, including three counts of sexual penetration with a foreign object, two counts of oral copulation with a minor and one count of forcible oral copulation.
Her arraignment is set for Dec. 29, said L.A. District Attorney’s office spokesman Greg Risling.
Brewer became an assistant professor with LMU’s Specialized Programs in Urban Education program in the 2011-12 school year after working as an adjunct faculty member in the LMU School of Education in 2007, according to a pamphlet introducing new hires at the time. Brewer’s academic research included “the role of technology as a tool for teaching students about the dangers and consequences of cyberbullying behaviors as well as the role of teachers in this process,” according to the document. Brewer’s affiliation with LMU ended last year.
The civil complaint — which targets Brewer, Notre Dame Academy and LMU for unspecified damages — accuses LMU of failing to report the plaintiff’s claims of prior sexual abuse to law enforcement.
“LMU is required to report what they were told to the police as a mandated reporter,” said David Ring, one of the plaintiff’s attorneys.
Mandated reporters are professionals required by state law to report allegations of child abuse or neglect, including doctors, teachers, school administrators, social workers and police.
“We are aware of the lawsuit. We can’t comment on it because it is a personnel matter,” LMU spokesman Mason Stockstill said.
According to the complaint, Brewer began “grooming” the plaintiff for sexual abuse by paying her an inordinate amount of public and private attention “with the intent of manipulating her emotions” shortly after the girl enrolled at Notre Dame Academy as a sophomore in the 2003-04 school year. Over the next three years, Brewer’s activities allegedly escalated to include sexually suggestive remarks, texting nude photographs of herself to the plaintiff’s cell phone, and finally digital penetration and oral copulation on the Notre Dame campus and at other locations until the plaintiff graduated in 2006.
In 2007, while the plaintiff attended LMU and Brewer was teaching there, Brewer began paying for counseling and therapy for the plaintiff but rescinded the payments, claiming she had become ill and could not afford them, according to the lawsuit.
“In summer 2009, fearing that Brewer would abuse other students and continue her sexual harassment and abuse of the plaintiff, plaintiff scheduled a meeting with the Loyola Student Affairs office, where she reported Brewer’s prior sexual abuse,” the complaint reads. “Loyola Student Affairs high-ranking personnel told plaintiff that they could not do anything about the abuse and then suggested that plaintiff enroll in different classes to avoid seeing Brewer on campus.”
A representative of LMU’s human resources department contacted the plaintiff in the fall of 2013, saying her “name had been raised” as part of an investigation of Brewer, according to the lawsuit, but after finding out about the plaintiff’s report of abuse four years earlier allegedly said “no one ever took any action on the 2009 report.”
“This is a situation where not one but two schools were blatantly negligent and carelessly turned their back on this young girl. It is unimaginable that school officials who are supposed to protect children took no action, given they were aware of the horrific situation,” Ring said.
Ring said he did not expect the civil case to proceed until the criminal charges against Brewer are resolved.