The New York Post reported that both boys were six year old students at Yeshiva Torah Temimah when they were abused by Rabbi Joel Kolko.
Lawsuits filed against the yeshiva charged that the school kept Kolko on as a rebbi despite 25 years worth of “multiple credible allegations of pedophilia.” The lawsuit also alleged that while Torah Temimah knew that Kolko was molesting children, it gave him unsupervised access to children, covered up allegations of sexual abuse and threatened families who complained about Kolko.
Former Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes cut a deal with Kolko in 2012 requiring him to plead guilty to two misdemeanor counts of child endangerment while sparing him both jail time and having to register as a sex offender.
A 2014 settlement had the yeshiva admitting no guilt but paying one student $900,000 and the other $1.35 million. Torah Temimah still owed the two boys a total of $2.1 million, an amount it agreed to pay last week after papers were filed against the yeshiva in Brooklyn Supreme Court.
The settlements in the Kolko case are the first ever paid by a yeshiva to students who were sexually abused by a staff member.
“This is unheard of,” said well known victims’ advocate Rabbi Yosef Blau of Yeshiva University. “I am not aware of any other settlements.”
Rabbi Blau said that he is hopeful that the settlement will prompt yeshivas to takes allegations of sexual abuse against students more seriously.
“If word gets out, other schools will think twice if they hear about abuse,” said Rabbi Blau.
Four other Torah Temima students who say they were abused by Kolko filed suit against the yeshiva, but their cases were dismissed because the statute of limitations had expired.
According to Marci Hamilton of CHILD USA, an organization devoted to child abuse prevention, cases of this nature are rare in New York because charges must be filed against schools by age 21 and against predators by age 23 and many molestation victims are not mentally prepared to deal with the abuse they suffered at that time.
“Even as teenagers, it’s impossible to process what’s happened to them by someone they trusted,” explained Hamilton. “Asking to come forward is much more than most of them can handle.”
Efforts to pass a law that would extend the statute of limitations in New York have failed multiple times. Attorney Carmen Durso, who worked to enact tougher laws in Massachusetts described the current laws in New York as “a national shame,” according to The Daily News.
A bill to extend the statute of limitations in New York is currently pending in the State Legislature.