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Former student gets $2 million settlement for 1989 abuse

Schools have the duty of educating and protecting their students. The results can be catastrophic if schools fail to meet their safety responsibilities and the victim’s right to commence crime victim litigation can continue for many years.  A Washington school district recently agreed to pay $2 million to settle a lawsuit by a woman over a band teacher’s sexual abuse that occurred over 30 years ago.

Teacher admits allegations

The band teacher, who was in his 30s when the abuse occurred, admitted in his lawsuit response that he engaged in sexual relations with the plaintiff who was a high school junior in Aberdeen in 1989. This abuse continued until she went to college even though the victim’s parents confronted him.

The plaintiff said that the band leader was jealous and manipulative and he abused her at his home, on band trips and at the school. He threatened her life to keep the abuse going, according to her suit.

The plaintiff also charged that the band teacher earlier abused a student in another school district. In his statement, the band teacher refused to address whether he abused other students.

Trauma

The plaintiff is a drummer and multi-instrumentalist who resides in Olympia. and continued having an interest in music. She earned music degrees from the University of Washington, taught college jazz classes, and performed with the Seattle Women’s Jazz Orchestra.

However, after teaching for eight years in Olympia and other school districts, she gave up her career in 2015. She said that being around 16-year-old girls and their vulnerability brought up memories of the abuse and affected her teaching. She was also reminded of the abuse when she went into band rooms at different schools.

The band leader worked in school districts in Washington before being hired in Aberdeen. After the plaintiff entered college in 1992, he moved to Saskatchewan where he led a band until 1999.

He returned to Washington and again taught band at Point Townsend High school. The plaintiff filed a complaint with the office of the public instruction after she learned this. He surrendered his teaching certificate to avoid discipline in 2006.

Lawsuit

The plaintiff, now 47, filed her lawsuit in Snohomish county court in 2019. The school district did not admit fault in its Dec. 4 settlement. It claimed that it was unaware of the abuse until 2018.

Government and public institutions may be liable for compensation and damages for sexual abuse and other illegal acts when they do not meet their responsibilities for safety. An attorney can help victims pursue their rights.