University Place School District to pay $4.25M to students in sexual abuse cases

UNIVERSITY PLACE, Wash. — The University Place School District has agreed to pay $4.25 million to six student-athletes who were allegedly sexually abused by a former volunteer wrestling coach at Curtis Jr. High and High School.

There are also three other civil litigations for other victims set for trial in 2023.

Attorneys representing the victims say this can help with the healing process.

“It means that they can feel validated and feel closure. And most importantly for the men who settled here recently, the(y) mostly feel some sense of accountability,” Vincent Nappo with Pfau Cochran Vertetis said.

Both Nappo and Ashton Dennis of Washington Law Center believe the school district did not properly vet the former volunteer coach. They say in 1977, this coach was convicted of two counts of indecent liberties against minors in Lewis County.

“A simple internet search uncovered this information about his deviant past,” Dennis said.

“He’s prosecuted in 1977 for molesting five children back then,” Nappo said.

“He was allowed to work with the program for nearly a decade on the basis of the fact that he is a really nice guy. And according to most, he was really friendly and good with children,” Nappo said.

Current superintendent of University Place Schools, Jeff Chamberlin, sent KIRO7 this statement in response to the settlement:

University Place School District’s first priority is to provide a safe and positive educational experience for all of its students. Recently, lawsuits were filed by several former students against the District. These students allege sexual abuse by a former parent volunteer in the wrestling program more than a decade ago. The parent volunteer has not been associated with the district for many years. We are deeply saddened by these allegations and are sorry for any pain or suffering that students may have experienced. The District recently reached a settlement with some students. Litigation continues with several others. Because this litigation is ongoing, and to respect the privacy of those impacted, we are unable to provide additional comments.

Both attorneys and community members hope this settlement can have an impact beyond the school district.

“I would very much hope that all of our districts are keeping our kids safe and double-checking and ensuring that ‘Hey, I think a sexual deviant was given access to children,’” Dennis said.

Since the former coach is not facing criminal charges at this time, KIRO 7 is not naming them.

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