A former Beverly Hills High School student is suing the Beverly Hills Unified School District and a former baseball and football coach for sexual abuse that occurred at the high school during the late 1970s and early 1980s.
According to the lawsuit, former teacher and coach Henry “Hank” Friedman committed “illegal and deplorable acts of sexual abuse” against the victim in an equipment room in the high school’s swim gym from 1978-1980.
Attorney Stephen Weisskopf, who is representing the victim, said the case was filed as a result of Assembly Bill 218, legislation signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom in 2019 that extends the statute of limitations for childhood sexual assault cases.
“She was barred for the last 30-plus years from bringing this lawsuit,” Weisskopf said. “That is why we’re seeing an influx of these older sexual abuse cases, because people can finally seek – if you want to be cliché about it – justice.”
The complaint states that Friedman convinced the victim, a junior varsity cheerleader, to participate in a “study” that he claimed was sanctioned by the government to study the growth of female teenagers.
After the victim agreed to participate, Friedman took her to the equipment room and tape measured the victim’s thighs, hips, waist, upper ribs and bust, according to the complaint.
Friedman convinced the student to take off her shirt during the first session, and in the second, he convinced her to take off her bra as well, the complaint states.
During the victim’s senior year, Friedman sexually assaulted the victim again in an incident that was detailed in the complaint.
The lawsuit states that the victim informed her parents of her interactions with Friedman, and that her parents then contacted administrators at the high school. The complaint alleges that Friedman was informed of the accusations, enabling him an opportunity to dispose of evidence.
The victim and her family were then contacted by Beverly Hills Police Department officers. According to a Los Angeles Times article from Aug. 11, 1981, the investigation uncovered “several” former students who had similar interactions with Friedman.
According to the article, school officials suspended Friedman in May 1981. However, the complaint alleges that the school still allowed Friedman to coach baseball.
The article states that Friedman pleaded no contest to three counts of contributing to the delinquency of minors after incidents with two girls, aged 15 and 17, from Jan. 1, 1981, to April 30, 1981.
Weisskopf said Friedman served no jail time but was sentenced to community service. Friedman was also eventually fired from the high school, according to the complaint.
“It was just an absolute brush-under-the-rug slap on the wrist,” Weisskopf said.
He said the victim and her family “just wanted to move on” after the incident and opted not to file a lawsuit at the time. However, the incidents “destroyed” the victim and have prevented her from having “meaningful” relationships ever since, Weisskopf said.
“It’s just stayed with her her entire life,” he added.
Weisskopf said the plaintiff has several witnesses who are prepared to testify against Friedman and the school district. However, only one victim has opted to pursue a lawsuit with his firm, the attorney said.
A jury trial is scheduled for July 5. The plaintiff is seeking punitive damages.
Friedman’s attorney, Dana Cole, said the lawsuit will be “vigorously defended.”
“It happened 42 years ago,” he said. “Unfortunately, it seems that [the victim] is blaming Henry Friedman for a lot of unrelated tragedy in her life. My preference is to deal with this in the courtroom rather than in the press.”
Cole said it is “shocking” that someone would have to defend themselves from an allegation that occurred so many years ago.
“Allegations like these are easy to make and difficult to shake through the passage of time,” he added.
Representatives of the BHUSD did not respond to a request for comment by deadline.
A petition has been created on change.org to seek justice for Friedman’s alleged victims.
The petition specifically refers to Jeff Anderson & Associates, a law firm that specializes in representing victims of childhood sexual abuse. One of the firm’s attorneys, Mike Reck, said the law firm was not responsible for the petition, but it is representing two individuals who intend to sue Friedman and possibly the school district as well.
Reck said AB 218 provided a three-year window for victims of childhood sexual abuse to file lawsuits, and that window closes on Dec. 31, Reck said.
“I, frankly, anticipate there will be [many] more people coming forward, given how prolific this perpetrator was, before the end of the year,” he added.
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