Record $3M Settlement in Seattle Schools Sex-Abuse Case
Seattle Public Schools has agreed to pay $3.05 million to settle a case about two students molested by a former middle-school teacher whose behavior during a 20-year education career allegedly resulted in multiple complaints that weren’t properly investigated. The settlement reportedly is the highest ever agreed to by any school district in the state of Washington.
Most of the money, $2.5 million, will go to a now 17-year-old student who, according to a lawsuit, was molested by fifth-grade teacher Laurence “Shayne” Hill over a two-year period beginning in 2001. Hill, now 58, was sentenced in 2005 to over five years in prison for molesting students, reports the Seattle Times. The 17-year-old’s mother received another $250,000, and a second victim, now 14, received $300,000.
During the more than 20 years that Hill taught at Broadview-Thomson Elementary School in North Seattle, the lawsuit contends, complaints about Hill from at least 15 other teachers were ignored by three principals and a schools superintendent. Because he was a popular teacher, his, as the newspaper puts it, “sexual horseplay with girls in the hallways, hand-holding on the playground, and other inappropriate behavior in public” was overlooked by many, according to attorney Ron Bemis, who represents the victims.
“It was kind of the open secret within Broadview-Thomson Elementary School,” he says. “The teachers knew about it, but parents didn’t know about it. The police didn’t know about it.”
Hill reportedly was investigated and charged after a mother of one of the victims saw him touching her 11-year-old’s buttocks.