REDLANDS, Calif. — A Southern California school district has agreed to pay $8.5 million to four students who allege they were sexually abused by a former teacher.

The San Bernardino Sun says the settlement was announced Friday by the youngsters’ attorney.

The Redlands Unified School District agreed to settle a claim alleging the children were molested by Joel Koonce, a former Redlands High School drama teacher who’s pleaded not guilty to 15 felony charges.

Over the past seven years, the district has paid more than $30 million to students who alleged they were molested by teachers or staff members. In August alone, the district agreed to pay $15.7 million to settle lawsuits by eight former students.

Spokeswoman MaryRone Shell says the district has toughened its policies for reporting suspected child abuse.

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