NKSD to pay $5 million settlement following school bus sexual assaults

The North Kitsap School District will be paying a $5 million settlement to several families after four students were sexually assaulted by another student on a district bus.

According to Jenn Markaryan, the district’s communications and community relations coordinator, the funds will be paid from the Washington Schools Risk Management Pool.

“The WSRMP provides services to a pool of several districts across the state,” Markaryan said. “Rates for the pool of districts has risen steadily for the past several years and are not based on a single incident.”

A suit filed in January 2018 claimed the district was negligent in allowing an older, behaviorally challenged student to ride on the same special education bus as the other children, all of whom have developmental disabilities.

“The NKSD knew or in the exercise of reasonable care should have known that Plaintiffs, developmentally disabled children, would be physically or emotionally harmed by an older behaviorally disabled child while riding on the school bus,” reads the plaintiff’s complaint for damages filed in Kitsap County Superior Court on Jan. 10 last year. “During the 2014-2015 academic year at Poulsbo Elementary School [four students] were all subjected to sexual abuse by an older behaviorally disabled student while riding on the school bus.”

As for why the students were placed on the bus together in the first place: at the time of the assaults, North Kitsap School District was operating a program serving severely behaviorally challenged students called Summit. The Summit program was located on the Poulsbo Elementary School campus as well.

According to court documents, the North Kitsap School District had known that the Summit student who assaulted the minor plaintiffs in the case (referred to in court documents as “Student B”) posed a risk of harm to other students. Furthermore, the district was also aware of the fact that Student B had previously engaged in sexually aggressive behavior and other “unwelcome behavior” with other students and required close supervision to protect other children from injury and harm, documents say.

According to court documents, in the 2014-2015 school year, all four of the plaintiffs in the case were sexually molested by Student B while riding on the NKSD school bus.

On Nov. 1, an order approving a settlement was filed which will see the North Kitsap School District paying $5 million for damages and to cover legal fees. According to documents, the net settlement amounts for each minor plaintiff will be deposited into individual special needs trusts.

“I sincerely believe that the health and safety of our students is our highest priority,” NKSD Superintendent Laurynn Evans said in a Nov. 21 email to the North Kitsap Herald. “I understand how important this is to the families of our community who entrust their children to us each and every day.”