The Shawnee Mission School District and four district officials have agreed to pay $165,000 to resolve a lawsuit alleging school officials failed to take action against a middle school student accused of sexually assaulting another student.
The district and officials agreed to the settlement in September but the amount was not disclosed until Monday, when U.S. District Judge Daniel Crabtree approved the settlement.
The assault happened during study hall at Westridge Middle School in Overland Park in 2017, when a male student “forcibly put his hands” down a female student’s pants and “penetrated her,” according to the lawsuit, which was filed in October 2017.
The lawsuit, filed by the female student (identified only as P.Y.) and her father, alleged the defendants had failed to report to law enforcement previous incidents of “unwelcome physical contact” involving the same male juvenile and three other female students.
The district insisted it handled the 2017 incident appropriately and swiftly, suspending the juvenile shortly after it occurred and then expelling him.
In December 2017, the juvenile was convicted of three counts of battery and one count of aggravated liberties with a child. He was sentenced to seven days in a juvenile facility, 21 days of house arrest and 12 months of probation and was required to register as a sex offender.
In addition to the district, the lawsuit named as defendants former Shawnee Mission School Superintendent Jim Hinson, Westridge Principal Jeremy McDonnell, Westridge Assistant Principal Jade Peters and former school board member Craig Denny.
As well as approving the settlement, Crabtree on Monday approved a provision allocating 45% of the settlement amount toward the plaintiffs’ attorney fees. Although he said it was “at the upper range of fee ranges appropriate for a settlement,” Crabtree found the fee award to be “fair and reasonable.”
The plaintiffs had asked Crabtree to seal the amount of the settlement, but Crabtree, citing case law, said there was “a strong presumption in favor of public access.”
A lawyer for the school district and other defendants declined to comment on the settlement.
Dan Margolies is a senior reporter and editor at KCUR. You can reach him on Twitter @DanMargolies.