Lawsuit alleges sex abuse by teacher at Hamilton High School

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A former student has sued Los Angeles Unified School District, alleging she was sexually abused by her teacher at Hamilton High School beginning in 2009.

The teacher, Barry Smolin, is also named in the suit, which was filed Tuesday in Los Angeles County Superior Court.

Smolin began grooming the student when she was 14, providing her with drugs and alcohol and in one case giving her money to buy LSD, the lawsuit alleges.

“He focuses on her, isolates her and gives her special attention,” said lead attorney John C. Taylor of Los Angeles trial firm Taylor & Ring. “Manipulates her vulnerabilities and creates a false sense of trust, all with one goal in mind, which was his sexual gratification.”

Smolin began sexually abusing the girl when she was 16, with the abuse taking place both in the classroom and off campus, Taylor said.

A spokeswoman for LAUSD said in a statement that the district hadn’t been served with the suit and doesn’t comment on pending litigation.

“However, the safety and well-being of our students remains our top priority,” the statement said.

The lawsuit alleges other teachers at the high school were aware of the abuse —with one even interrupting Smolin when he was abusing the child at school — but did not report it to law enforcement or child protective services, as they are required to do by law.

“There were a lot of red flags,” Taylor said. “He was physically affectionate and inappropriate with her in public places that would have and should have been seen by other teachers and administrators at the school. Hugs were mandatory was his statement to her. He’d be touching her hair.”

Smolin, who did not reply to an email seeking comment, began teaching English in the high school’s humanities magnet program in 1992. He is still employed there, Taylor said.

The teacher has gained attention for his idiosyncratic style, which included “leaping from atop his desk or reciting 18th century poetry as a rap artist might,” according to a 2006 Times profile, which also stated that he was often referred to as the “soul” of the program.

A songwriter and musician who performs under the moniker Mr. Smolin, he hosts a psychedelic rock show on KPFK-FM. The station did not immediately respond to a request seeking comment.

Hamilton High School has a history of teachers abusing students, Taylor said, pointing to a 2015 settlement that LAUSD reached with four students who accused music teacher Vance Miller of having sex with them in the mid-1990s through 2010.


The record suggests the school district’s policies and training on reporting sexual abuse are inadequate, he said.

“I think where the failure is is that the other teachers or administrators, when they see something, either they don’t know what they’re supposed to do and so fail to act or they know what they’re supposed to do but they don’t do it,” Taylor said, adding that they could be afraid of getting a colleague in trouble or of getting drawn into a legal dispute.

“Unfortunately in all those decisions, the person who absolutely is getting hurt is the kid,” he said.

Taylor declined to comment on whether the abuse was also reported to law enforcement. .

The woman at the center of the allegations has suffered severe trauma, he said.

“She’s absolutely entitled to compensatory damages for what she went through and what scarring that has left on her, in terms of trust and relationships,” Taylor said.

“When you have somebody that you’re supposed to interact with, you’re suspicious at a certain level that this person is always going to somehow be pushing you, cajoling you into some type of corner in order to get something from you,” he said.

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