Ezra Bayda, the former Zen Center of San Diego teacher, and two of his former students settled a civil lawsuit alleging sexual assault and harassment out of court for an undisclosed amount of money earlier this year, Tricycle has learned.
The two women filed a civil lawsuit in San Diego Superior Court in May 2020, court documents To display. Both women allege “grotesque acts of sexual assault and assault” against them from Bayda throughout their year as a student and teacher. The civil lawsuit also named the Zen Center of San Diego (ZCSD) as a defendant, and the suit alleged six counts against Bayda and ZCSD, including sexual assault, gender-based violence, sexual harassment, intentional infliction of emotional distress and neglect. A jury trial had been set for March this year.
ZCSD did not return multiple requests for comment. A statement recently posted on the Zen center homepage discussed the settlement. “Under the terms of this settlement, all parties have agreed that the settlement constitutes a compromise of the disputed claims which should not be construed as an admission of liability by any party,” the statement said, adding that the center is committed to providing a safe practice environment and linking to their ethical policies and sexual misconduct complaints procedure.
Bayda has been practicing meditation since 1970, according to her biography, and received dharma transmission from Charlotte Joko Beck (1917-2011), who founded the ZCSD in 1983. He is the author of numerous books, including Aging for beginners and Being Zen: Bringing Meditation to Life.
According to ZCSD, in late July 2019, the Zen Center’s board “received verbal accounts of sexual misconduct allegations from Ezra Bayda.” Bayda was “immediately suspended” from teaching, as was Elizabeth Hamilton, head teacher at ZCSD and wife of Bayda. The center hired faith trust institute conduct an independent investigation. (Faith Trust Institute is a multi-faith, multi-cultural non-profit organization founded in 1977 that provides training and counseling in hopes of ending sexual and domestic violence.)
Following FTI’s investigation, the ZCSD board voted unanimously to fire Bayda as a teacher, stating that “there was credible evidence that Ezra had committed multiple instances of ‘Sexual misconduct with more than one student in violation of ZCSD’s Sexual Misconduct Policy and White Plum Asanga’s Code of Conduct. Ethical Conduct.’
Hamilton, according to ZCSD, was not charged with sexual misconduct, but the board “voted unanimously to call on Elizabeth to resign immediately based on her violation of the WPA’s Code of Ethical Conduct regarding concerns confidentiality, the right of expression and dual relationships”. .”
The lawsuit also claims that the accusers reported Bayda’s inappropriate behavior and assault to the ZCSD board in 2018, and that the board “investigated” but did not question the accusers or prevent Bayda from teaching. .
Bayda, in an email, said he and Hamilton “wish all good things in the future” for the two former students, and that they “hope they will continue their practice and have a happy life.” Bayda added that he and Hamilton “are pleased the litigation is resolved and wish the best for everyone involved.”
When asked to describe the terms of the settlement in a follow-up email, Bayda said, “My wish as a teacher has always been to do no harm, and I don’t think talking about the details of this case would be of benefit to anyone. Bayda said he and Hamilton teach informally at a retreat center, as well as with students over the phone.
The plaintiffs declined to comment for this story. Their attorney, William F. Small III, told Tricycle that the violation of the student-teacher relationship “got to the heart of what this case was about” and “one of the reasons why the wrongs that have been done have been so devastating to my clients”.
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