A week after the school district lost a multi-million lawsuit over student abuse, questions about the status of the employee accused in the case persist. 

The Santa Monica Malibu Unified School District has said ongoing legal concerns prevent it from answering questions about the employment status of Galit Gottlieb while the district considers whether to appeal the recent judgment.  

Last month, a jury said the District must pay out $45 million to the family of special needs twins after Gottlieb, a behavioral aid at Juan Cabrillo Elementary School in Malibu, was found to have physically abused two autistic seven-year-olds.

The 2019 lawsuit alleged Gottlieb used corporal punishment including physical restraint, physical abuse and intentional battery against the two special needs second graders. 

The incidents described in the case occurred during the 2017-18 school year and were initially reported by a bus driver at the District, who said she witnessed Gottlieb physically restrain and punish the students by putting hand sanitizer on their cuts.

Gottlieb and the SMMUSD were named as defendants in the complaint, along with other administrators whom plaintiffs alleged shirked their legal duty to report abuse. 

Gottlieb said she is innocent of the allegations but declined to provide an additional statement on her lawyer’s advice. The District said its discussions with its attorneys are ongoing over potential appeals and no details will be available until a decision is made. 

Gottlieb has continued to work with students during the duration of the lawsuit and SMMUSD said it has no record of complaints during that time. Employees at Franklin Elementary School, where Gottlieb is alleged to have worked up to the judgment, were told not to comment on the case and instead direct all questions to a statement from Superintendent Dr. Ben Drati. 

The statement makes no mention of Gottlieb 

“We are committed to making sure that nothing like what has been claimed here could ever happen in the future,” Drati said. “We must always examine our shortcomings, but we are also determined to protect the well-being of thousands of our future students and ensure that an unduly punitive award cannot impact the quality of education for an entire generation.”

While there’s no evidence Gottlieb has been fired, she has not been seen on campus in the past week. The district has the ability to put an employee on “home assignment” which includes full pay and benefits with administrative assignments that can be completed remotely. 

editor@smdp.com

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