Partner Darrell Cochran and associate Bridget Grotz, filed a lawsuit against Walla Walla Public Schools on behalf of the mother of a former seventh-grade student at Pioneer Middle School. The former student, who was just 12 years old at the time, alleged that music teacher Michael Jones sexually harassed her between 2015 and 2016.
As the employer of Mr. Jones, Walla Walla Public Schools should have known that he was a sexual predator and that the risk to students was significant. In fact, the district allegedly received complaints from students regarding Mr. Jones’ predatory behavior but did not take proper action. Because of the school district’s failure to protect its own students from this sexual predator, the plaintiff suffered abuse and resulting damages.
“One of the reasons for bringing the lawsuit is to reinforce to school districts that their priority is not only to protect the child…But believe a child when they make an allegation like this,” Darrell told KNDU/KNDO, the NBC affiliate for Yakima, Washington.
Although the district conducted an investigation in 2008 following complaints of sexually predatory behavior from several mothers and young girls, it did not terminate Mr. Jones. Instead, it concluded the allegations were unsubstantiated and allowed him to retain his position, providing him with further opportunities to abuse young female students.
“The prior abuse reports, especially those that came forward in 2008, are identical to what happened to our client in 2015 which is exactly what we expect to see with a molester teacher who develops a grooming pattern and replicates that over and over again,” Darrell told KNDU/KNDO.
Hopefully by holding Walla Walla Public Schools accountable, the district will take proper action in the future to protect students, preventing others from having to suffer the same abuse as the plaintiff.
Media coverage on the lawsuit.
KNDU/KNDO, “Lawsuit Filed Against Walla Walla Public Schools Following Allegations of Sexual Misconduct”
KAPP/KVEW, “Former Walla Walla band teacher cited in sexual abuse lawsuit”
KEPR, “Sexual misconduct lawsuit filed against Walla Walla School District”