Ezra Bayda and Zen Center of San Diego settle sexual assault suit

Zen teacher and author Ezra Bayda and the Zen Center of San Diego (ZCSD) have reached a settlement with two former students over allegations of sexual assault and harassment, according to a statement posted earlier this year by the ZCSD Board of Trustees.

Court documents filed in 2020 named both Bayda and ZCSD as defendants over charges of sexual battery, battery, gender violence, sexual harassment, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and negligence. The filing claimed that Bayda’s misconduct was first reported to ZCSD’s Board of Trustees in 2018, but that he was allowed to remain as a teacher at the center. According to ZCSD’s statement, the Board did not receive “actual claims of sexual abuse” until July 2019, at which time it immediately suspended Bayda pending an independent investigation. The Board later unanimously voted to remove Bayda from his position, citing “credible evidence that [he had] committed multiple instances of sexual misconduct with more than one student in violation of ZCSD’s Policy on Sexual Misconduct and the White Plum Asanga’s Code of Ethical Conduct.”

The Zen Center of San Diego is a non-religious non-profit organization, and participation is membership based. It is highly unusual for such organizations to be held responsible for the acts of teachers, and ZCSD itself states that the settlement represents a “compromise of disputed claims that is not to be construed as an admission of liability on the part of any party.”