Willard district pays $90K to settle case of alleged sexual assault, failure to hotline

A lawsuit was filed in 2018 by the parent of a Willard Middle School student.
A lawsuit was filed in 2018 by the parent of a Willard Middle School student.

Willard Public Schools has agreed to pay $90,000 to settle a lawsuit filed four years ago by the parent of a boy who was allegedly sexually assaulted by classmates on a school bus in December 2016.

In the suit, which named five employees, the parent alleged the district violated its own policies — and state law — by not reporting the incident in a timely manner to the state Children's Division hotline.

Superintendent Eric Wilken, who was not named in the suit or employed by the district at the time of the incident, confirmed the legal action was over.

"We are happy that both parties have reached an agreement and the district is looking forward to continuing to focus on building a positive culture and environment for all Willard students," Wilken said.

On Aug. 19, the parent represented by attorney Jay Kirksey filed a notice of dismissal with Greene County Judge Michael Cordonnier, which was entered Monday. Reached by the News-Leader this week, Kirksey had no comment.

The parent and student were not named in court documents.

In response to a Sunshine Law request, the district provided a  statement regarding the conclusion of the suit: "The amount of $90,000 was paid from our insurance company to settle this matter."

It is common for districts to carry liability insurance, which typically covers any judgement or settlement reached as part of a lawsuit. In that way, operating funds needed for day-to-day expenses are not at risk.

2018 story: Lawsuit alleges Willard school employees failed to hotline sexual assault on bus

Five employees were originally named in the suit along with a third-party defendant, the Springfield Area Baseball Association, Inc. Of the five employees, two still work for the district:

  • Scott McGee, high school social studies teacher and head baseball coach, hired in 2007;

  • Amy Sims, principal of Willard Middle School, hired in 1998.

The three others included Lonnie Compton, middle school counselor; Jeff Staley, athletic and activities director; and Steve Vaughn, building trades teacher and assistant middle school track coach.

The suit alleged middle school students from two sports teams were on the bus when the boy was allegedly assaulted by two male students. The incident was described as inappropriate conduct of a sexual nature.

"My clients, like all minors and students at a school district, rely upon the administration to protect them," Kirksey said in early 2018, after the suit was filed. "Part of those duties is to mandate reporting of incidents."

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Under state law, all five school employees are "mandated reporters," meaning they are legally required to immediately report any allegation or reasonable suspicion of child abuse or neglect to the Children's Division so it can be fully investigated.

At the time the suit was filed, the News-Leader asked if hotline calls were made, if an internal investigation was conducted and if changes were made after the allegations. No answers were provided.

The suit alleges the boy was retaliated against after reporting the assault. According to the parent, the boy was bullied, harassed and told he was no longer allowed to be part of a sports team because he was a distraction.

Claudette Riley is the education reporter for the News-Leader. Email news tips to criley@news-leader.com.

This article originally appeared on Springfield News-Leader: Willard district pays $90K to settle suit over alleged sexual assault