PCVA partner Darrell Cochran and associate Andrew Ulmer settled a sexual assault civil lawsuit for $2 million on behalf of a woman who was abused by her Aberdeen High School band teacher in the late 1980s through the early 1990s. Maria Joyner, now 47 years old, was abused by Michael Alstad over the course of several years while she was a student. Alstad admitted to engaging in sexual acts with Joyner yet has since located to Canada where he continues to work as a band director.
The Aberdeen School District and Alstad settled the suit on December 4, 2020. By raising awareness about the settlement, Cochran hopes to make school districts more accountable for protecting students against abuse. “We find all too often that school districts may do the right thing in terms of firing an employee like Alstad from their own district, but then stay quiet about his potential danger to other districts,” he said. “Whether that means notifying the police or notifying administrators about the potential danger, this has to change.”
The years of abuse took a psychological toll on Joyner who continues to work through the healing process. Through this settlement, she hopes that schools will learn that students need better protection against abusers. “I am doing this not only for my own need to heal but to bring attention to the tremendous injustice that happens to students when a teacher takes advantage of them like this and a district does not respond,” she said. “I can no longer stay silent about the profound trauma this man has inflicted on me and his other victims.”
Additional media coverage:
ABC News “Woman abused by school band teacher gets $2M settlement”
battlefordsNOW “Sexual abuse case involving Battlefords band director settled”
Yahoo News “North Battleford band director named in $2M sexual assault settlement”