Sex-abuse lawsuit against Lincoln County School District settled
NEWPORT – Four years after the sexual abuse and bullying of first-grade children at the Sam Case Primary school came to light, five families have settled a lawsuit against the Lincoln County School District and three staff members at the school.
One mother, who spoke on condition of anonymity to protect the identity of her child, said she has mixed feelings about the settlement.
“There is no way my child will ever be made whole again,” she said. “All I can do is get my child the help he needs. What we were told by the child psychiatrist is that when children hit puberty, when they graduate, go to college, have kids of their own, all their anxiety will re-emerge in full force.
“My child has Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. It’s a continuing thing. It’s not like we put a checkmark next to my child’s name because of the settlement. It doesn’t work that way.”
The settlement totaled $250,000 to be distributed among the five victims as determined by the evaluation of each case.
The abuse came to light four years ago when parents learned from their children that a 6-year-old boy had touched their genitals, hit them in the crotch and exposed himself.
The case prompted the Lincoln County District Attorney’s office to charge Susan Roebber, English for Speakers of Other Languages coordinator at Sam Case Primary School; teacher Wren Clark; and former principal Marsha Eckelman with failure to report child abuse, a Class A violation. Each was fined $648.
“Imagine how you would feel if it were your first grader,” said attorney Ken Ammann, who represented the children. “We’re seeing more and more problems with bullying. We’ve got to take it seriously. We’re seeing kids across the nation committing suicide because of bullying behavior and we need to get educated and be proactive. This was a mix of behaviors in this case, a mix of failings on the part of the people who should have been watching closer.”
The parents agreed to the settlement in order to spare the children the stress of testifying about the abuse in the courtroom, said Ammann. The lawsuit originally sought $2.9 million.”
We would have hoped to have received more money for the individual children, but in litigation, it is a long drawn out process and it is extremely emotionally taxing, he said.
“We were faced with demands that the children give individual testimony and in consultation with the medical folks caring for the children and their parents, we did not think it was in the best interest of the kids. Rather than putting the kids in that situation we agreed to resolve the case for the amount.”
The mother who talked with The Oregonian said she spoke on behalf of all the parents and that they’d decided to bring the lawsuit in hopes of saving other children from the same situation.”
The whole reason for this is we want to make sure this doesn’t happen to other kids and for parents to be aware that it can happen in school, and we want people to be vigilant,” she said. “The big thing we parents have a problem with is, had the teachers did what they were required to do by law, which is mandatory reporting, none of this would have happened. Because they didn’t do what they were supposed to do our children have and continue to suffer frustration, anger, anguish and fear.”
Lincoln County School District superintendent Tom Rinearson said the district’s child abuse reporting policies and procedures have always complied with the law.”
After an independent review by outside agencies and some new practices that have been put in place, I am confident that our school district systems are better than ever and actually higher than legally mandated,” Rinearson said. “On a personal level, I wish this had never happened. However, I am glad that it has been settled and that the kids and their families can move on.”
The parents’ first inkling something was wrong came when the children became reluctant to go to school, the mother said. Because the children had transferred to Sam Case from Yaquina View, which was closed, parents believed their reticence was due to the new environment. It wasn’t until one child finally spoke up that parents began talking amongst each other and discovered the abuse.”
As a parent you finally cajole your child into going to school,” she said. “Imagine how that child feels. Imagine how much courage it takes to get up every morning and go to school and hope for the best.”
We never thought when we took our children to school that we’d have to worry about an adult not doing what they are supposed to do to protect our children.”
— Lori Tobias
School district settles Sam Case sex abuse lawsuit
NEWPORT — The Lincoln County School District has reached a $250,000 settlement with five families over a sexual abuse lawsuit.
The lawsuit claimed that a 6-year-old boy inappropriately touched other children and exposed himself at Sam Case Primary four years ago.
The money, Attorney Ken Ammann said, will be distributed among the five families as determined by evaluations.
“It’s an unfortunate situation,” he said. “I’m sure everyone involved wishes it never had occurred. The parents I worked with were always focused on the best interest of their kids.”
The lawsuit originally sought $2.9 million, but Ammann said the process was “very emotionally draining” as the parents learned more about what happened to their children during the investigation.