Seattle Public Schools has agreed to pay a former student nearly $250,000 to settle a lawsuit she filed claiming the school district failed to adequately investigate her complaints of sexual misconduct by her sixth-grade computer teacher.
A 22-year-old woman recently settled a lawsuit she filed against Seattle Public Schools over the alleged sexual comments and abuse she suffered as a 12-year-old at the hands of her computer teacher at Nathan Eckstein Middle School.
The settlement is for a penny under $250,000, an amount that would have triggered mandatory notification to the Seattle School Board, said one of the woman’s attorneys, Lincoln Beauregard.
According to Beauregard, who represented the woman alongside attorney Damisi Velasquez, the school district’s attorney also wanted the woman to sign a confidentiality agreement that would have barred details of the settlement from being released to the media. The woman’s attorneys refused.
“I think they just wanted to sweep it under the rug,” Beauregard said.
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Patricia Buchanan, the attorney who represented Seattle Public Schools, was out of the office Friday and did not return a phone call seeking comment.
A spokeswoman for the school district also forwarded questions about the settlement to the district’s legal department, but said officials with knowledge about the lawsuit were not in the office Friday. She said a response from them was likely early next week.
The alleged victim was assigned to a sixth-grade computer class taught by David Wysen, an educator for more than two decades, according to her suit. He allegedly made comments about the sixth-grader’s body and ogled her in class, subjecting her to teasing from classmates who called her “the teacher’s crush,” according to court records.
She also accused Wysen of pinning her to a wall and pressing his body against hers, the records say.
She reported Wysen’s comments and touching in January 2005, telling her school counselor and principal that she felt uncomfortable and threatened by Wysen’s attention and his attempts to get her to meet with him after school, according to the records. Her suit claimed the principal, Marni Campbell, conducted a cursory investigation and failed to remove the girl from Wysen’s class or take other corrective action.
According to the plaintiff’s deposition in the suit, Campbell suggested the girl needed counseling and was making the complaints to get attention.
The suit was originally filed in King County Superior Court in November 2013, but was then transferred to federal court because it included a claim the school district violated Title IX, which bars sexual discrimination in any education program or activity that receives federal funds.
The woman also sued for negligence and negligent infliction of emotional distress.
Wysen, 49, was placed on administrative leave by Seattle Public Schools after the woman filed her lawsuit, based on the information the district had eight years earlier, according to Beauregard. It is unclear when or if he will be allowed to return to the classroom.
In January, U.S. District Court Judge Marsha Pechman denied a motion for partial summary judgment filed by Buchanan, the attorney for Seattle Public Schools.
“Plaintiff has presented evidence that Defendant had actual notice of sexual harassment and assault, including physical touching, by a teacher, yet took no real corrective action in attempt to address Plaintiff’s complaints,” Pechman wrote in her order denying summary judgment. “Whether Defendant had actual knowledge of the severity of the harassment and assault now alleged and whether it responded with deliberate indifference to Plaintiff’s complaints are questions for the jury.”
Beauregard said he believes the judge’s ruling played a role in the district’s decision to settle his client’s lawsuit through mediation.
He said his client is now a professional basketball coach who works with girls who are the same age she was when Wysen allegedly sexually harassed her.
“She really struggled with this situation for a long time,” he said, adding that all she really wanted was for the school district to be held accountable.