University Place School District pays $9.5M to settle student sex abuse claims

The University Place School District has agreed to pay a $9.5 million settlement to three former students who allege a former volunteer wrestling coach sexually abused them in the 2000's.

David O'Connor served as a wrestling coach at Curtis Junior High and Curtis High School from 2003–2007.

According to the Tacoma News Tribune, the $9.5 million settles claims brought forth in a 2021 lawsuit by the three alleged victims. The settlement prevents a jury trial, the News Tribune said. The students, then between the ages of 14 and 16, claim that O'Connor sexually assaulted them multiple times under the guise of a medical checkup.

The alleged abuse occurred both on and off school grounds.

In a statement to FOX 13, the district said:

"University Place School District’s first priority is to provide a safe and positive educational experience for all of its students. The District recently reached a settlement with several former students who alleged sexual abuse by a former parent and volunteer coach in the wrestling program between 2005 and 2008. The settlement is being paid by the District’s insurers. The parent has not been associated with the District for many years. We are deeply saddened by these allegations and are sorry for any pain or suffering that students may have experienced. Out of respect for the privacy of those involved we are unable to provide additional comments."

This suit is not the first time University Place has paid a settlement regarding O'Connor's alleged sexual abuse.

In Aug. 2022, the district paid more than $4.2 million to six former student-athletes who were also allegedly sexually assaulted by O'Connor.

In that suit, attorneys for the victims said O'Connor's position as a couch gave him "unfettered access to children."

In 1977, David O'Connor was convicted of two counts of indecent liberties against minors, according to Washington Law Center. A Lewis County Superior Court judge deemed him a "sexual psychopath" and he was ordered to not have contact with any child under the age of 15.

The suit settled in 2022 claims the school did not properly vet O'Connor to catch his previous conviction.

The suit against the district said, "In breaching its duties, including hiring, retaining, and failing to supervise O’Connor; giving O’Connor access to children; entrusting its tasks, premises, and instrumentalities to O’Connor; failing to train its personnel in the signs of sexual predation and to protect children from sexual abuse and other harm; failing to warn [Plaintiffs] and [their] parents, and other parents of the danger of sexual abuse; and failing to create a safe and secure environment for [Plaintiffs] and other children who were under its supervision and in its care, custody, and control, UPSD created a foreseeable risk that [Plaintiffs] would be sexually abused by O’Connor."

FOX 13 is reaching out to an attorney of one of the alleged victims and a victim themselves. This story will updated when we hear back.