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Sexual abuse charges against a Hamilton High School teacher could lead to a swift dismissal

by Jonah Lowenfeld

February 3, 2012 | 5:35 pm

Vance Miller, who taught at the selective Academy of Music at Hamilton High School, hasn't been in the classroom since Sept. 2010. Facing multiple charges of sexual abuse from former students, he could be dismissed by the district next week. Photo downloaded from a (now dismantled) page of the school's web site.

A popular music teacher at Hamilton High School is facing multiple allegations of sexual abuse.

For 17 years, Vance Miller taught in the magnet music academy at the public high school, which is located near the Pico-Robertson neighborhood and attracts many Jewish students. Miller, 59, had been teaching in the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) since 1978, and was removed from the classroom in September 2010. He had been named Southern California’s Outstanding Music Educator of the Year earlier that year.

Coming in the wake of another veteran teacher’s dismissal from Miramonte Elementary School after being charged with multiple counts of lewd conduct, LAUSD Superintendent John Deasy told the Los Angeles Times that the district could commence dismissal proceedings against Miller as early as next week.

But for the lawyer representing two of Miller’s alleged victims, the district’s response is too late, and insufficient.

“Why has the school not reached out to potential victims, to parents to inform them?” asked Anthony De Marco, a lawyer who specializes in civil litigation of abuse cases. “That to me astonishing.”

De Marco represents two adult men who were students of Miller’s in the 1990s, both of whom allege the teacher sexually abused them over an extended period. Both allege that Miller began by giving them hugs, kisses on the lips and massages, and later escalated their relationship into a sexual one.

De Marco filed a lawsuit (pdf) on behalf of one client in April 2011 naming Miller and LAUSD as defendants, seeking damages for negligence and sexual battery. In November 2011, De Marco filed a claim for damages (pdf) against LAUSD on behalf of a second former student of Miller’s, and said he expects to file a lawsuit in that case soon.

In the lawsuit the first client alleges that Miller brought him to his home. The second client alleges the music teacher took him to the YMCA in Westwood where they would work out together and occasionally shower naked together. De Marco, who has interviewed many former students of Miller’s and heard stories corroborating those his clients have told, said the teacher also took students to his church, Knox Presbyterian.

Still, De Marco pointed out, it wasn’t until the story about Miller appeared in media reports that the began to move toward dismissal.

“The school district has known about my clients’ complaints since July 2010,” De Marco said in an interview on February 3, “and they have known that there are multiple others for a full year.”

According to KPCC, when Miller was removed from his classroom in 2010, he was not placed on administrative leave, and “[p]arents weren’t told why the head of the orchestra was gone and a substitute was in his place.”

Attempts to contact members of the LAUSD School Board on Friday were unsuccessful.

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