A junior high school band director from Anaheim molested eight students from the 1970s to the 1990s, forcing one girl to have two abortions, a lawsuit alleges.
The band director, Richard Elgas, retired in 2003 after a nearly 40-year career. He died in 2017, according to the Orange County Coroner Division.
The alleged abuse occurred while Elgas taught at Fremont and Sycamore junior high schools and ranged from sexually harassing students to having years-long sexual relationships with girls, who were 12 or 13 years old when the abuse started, according to the suit.
He allegedly impregnated one girl three times, ordering her to abort the fetuses. The final time, in 1983, she had the baby, but he died seven days later, the lawsuit said.
The eight former students sued unnamed defendants who were responsible for overseeing Elgas. Fremont Junior High, which closed in 1989, and Sycamore Junior High were part of the Anaheim Union High school district.
A spokesperson for the school district declined to comment, citing the litigation. Elgas’ family members could not be reached for comment.
The lawsuit was filed in June by four plaintiffs and amended on Monday to include four additional victims, said Michael Carney, an attorney representing the eight women.
The plaintiffs are not named in the lawsuit, and The Times does not name victims of sexual assaults.
Carney urged any additional victims to contact him. Elgas does not appear to have been criminally charged.
“This is just the tip of the iceberg,” Carney said. “He’s gone through generations of young women, and the district did nothing to protect these students. These eight women deserve to be vindicated. For so long, he was treated like this venerated figure.”
To support the claim that school officials should have protected the girls from Elgas, the lawsuit cites other Anaheim Union teachers who were convicted of molesting their students.
In 1999, a jury awarded $2.5 million to a former student who was 13 when science teacher and track coach Clifford Scofield began a sexual relationship with her. Scofield served 13 months in prison.
Two of the district’s high school band directors, Alex Delao and Jeffrey William Plum, were convicted of molesting students in the 1980s.
Elgas was a well-known band director in Orange County
In 1998, he took the Sycamore Junior High band to Dorothy Chandler Pavilion to perform as the opening act for the Los Angeles Philharmonic. The band gave concerts at Knott’s Berry Farm and played under college conductors at Cal State Fullerton.
Elgas told The Times that his students “don’t know how good they can be. This proves to them that if we work together and work very hard, success will come.”
But he also had a reputation for getting too close to some girls in his class, according to the lawsuit.
A former student, identified in the lawsuit as Jane Roe 2, said Elgas began keeping her after class to touch her breasts when she was in eighth grade in the late 1970s.
A counselor at Fremont Junior High witnessed Elgas reaching under her blouse and took no action, the former student said in an interview with The Times.
In class, Elgas sometimes dimmed the lights and pushed boys and girls together to force them to kiss, she said.
In ninth grade, Elgas began taking her to his house to have sex, she said.
“He had explained to me that’s what happened when people are in love and that he loved me,” she said. “He said it wasn’t a sin.”
Shortly after her 15th birthday, she got pregnant. Elgas took her to get an abortion. A second pregnancy ended the same way.
When she was 18 and pregnant by Elgas again, she changed her mind at the abortion clinic.
She dropped out of high school and ran away to a home for unwed teenage mothers. She had not told her parents about the pregnancies, though they eventually tracked her down.
In October 1983, she gave birth to a boy, naming him Richard after his father. The baby had a birth defect and died a week later.
“I wonder where I’d be today if it wasn’t for this person who turned my entire world upside down,” said the former student, now in her 50s, who later married and had children.