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School district blamed 3rd-grade girls after teacher molested them. Now it’s paying up.

A Florida school district blamed four third-grade girls after their male teacher molested them in 2005, saying they were “old enough to appreciate the consequences of their actions,” the Sun Sentinel reported, citing court documents.

In response to a lawsuit by the girls’ parents, the Palm Beach County School District also said the children “conducted themselves in a careless and negligent manner” and that administrators should not be held responsible, the paper said.

Now, in a reversal, the school board is expected to approve a $3.6 million settlement Oct. 18, the Sun Sentinel reported.

How did this begin?

  • School police investigated Blake Sinrod in 2005 after one of the girls told her mother that he had fondled her during a reading group at Coral Sunset Elementary, the Sun Sentinel reported.
  • The girl said he touched her under her clothing and told her to touch his privates over his clothing, the paper said, citing a police report.
  • The three other girls made similar accusations — that Sinrod inappropriately touched them during a reading group or classroom movie, that they gave him neck rubs and that he told them to place their hands on his genitals outside his clothes, the Sun Sentinel added, citing a police report.

What did school police conclude?

  • School police said there was sufficient evidence to charge Sinrod in all four cases, the paper said, but the state attorney’s office disagreed and pursued only allegations involving two of the girls.

What happened to the teacher?

  • Sinrod, now 46, pleaded guilty in May 2006 to child abuse charges involving two of the students, the Sun Sentinel reported.
  • Sinrod was fired in 2006, and his teaching license was revoked in 2008, the paper added.
  • Adjudication was withheld after he met conditions of his probation, the paper said, citing court records.
  • Sinrod could not be reached for comment, the Sun Sentinel reported.

How did the girls’ parents respond?

  • Parents of the four children filed a civil suit in 2006, the Sun Sentinel said.
  • Their lawyer at the time said the parents believed Sinrod targeted their children because they were immigrants and that their parents may not know how to report crimes, the paper said.

What is the school board saying?

  • “It is my intent to ensure that this type of defense is never, ever used again in the district,” board member Karen Brill told the Sun Sentinel in a separate story. “The board had no knowledge that this was the manner in which the school district was going to defend the case, and in no way is it appropriate. I think we’re all outraged.’’
  • “I don’t think a child can ever consent to being sexually abused,” board member Frank Barbieri added to the paper.

What is the law firm that handled the district’s case saying?

  • Dale Friedman, an attorney with Conroy Simberg, told the Sun Sentinel the “comparative negligence” defense wasn’t used to claim the girls were responsible but to note factors that could reduce damages for the district.

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