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Students sue former teacher charged with sexual abuse in LA area

Two former female elementary school students have filed a lawsuit against their former teacher, alleging he sexually abused them at Telfair Elementary School in Pacoima.

The students were 8 years old at the time they allege their teacher, Paul Chapel III, forced them to sit on his lap while he kissed and fondled them in class during school hours, according to the complaint.

The complaint, filed in Los Angeles Superior Court on Thursday, also claims the Los Angeles Unified School District negligently hired and retained Chapel and should have known he had a history of sexual abuse cases in court.

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Chapel was arrested in October in connection with allegedly sexually abusing four minors, including the plaintiffs in the civil case. News about the arrest was not disclosed until February, garnering complaints from parents.

Chapel was fired from his job in March and his teaching credential was suspended. He is in jail awaiting a July 16 court date in connection with the criminal case. He's pleaded not guilty to charges of lewd acts against 13 children.

School district officials did not comment.

An attorney for Chapel was not available.

The complaint alleges the district hired Chapel despite the filing of a civil case against him for making sexual jokes and showing a sexually explicit video to Chaminade High School students in 1987. Chapel lost that case and paid the plaintiffs $57,000.

The complaint also alleges the district should have known that Chapel was prosecuted in 1997 for sexually molesting an 8-year-old family friend during a sleepover. The day of his arrest on Feb. 27, 1997, the district transferred Chapel from a classroom to an administrative office.

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At the time, the state suspended his teaching credential.

Following the criminal trial, which ended in a hung jury, the district lifted Chapel’s suspension and he was allowed back into the classroom. He was reassigned to Telfair and reported to work on Oct. 9, 1998.

The district “failed to take any measures to discipline, warn, train or discharge Chapel, and failed to take any measures to ensure the safety of the minor students within his care,” the complaint alleges.

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