UNIVERSITY PLACE, Wash. - University Place School District has agreed to pay more than $4.2 million to former student-athletes who were allegedly sexually abused by a wrestling coach who had previously been convicted of sexual crimes relating to minors.
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.
However, O'Connor was hired by University Place SD in the early 2000s, serving as a wrestling coach at Curtis Junior High and Curtis High School from 2003 to 2007.
Attorneys for the victims say his position gave him "unfettered access to children."
According to court documents, O'Connor was charged with multiple counts of child molestation from his time at University Place School District. Attorneys for the victims say the alleged abuse occurred on school grounds and in various homes.
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."
Court documents say the student-athletes suffered "physical and psychological injuries," some of which are "of a permanent and lasting nature" that the victims will need to "expend sums of money for treatment."
The settlements will go to six former student-athletes, who were alleged victims of O'Connor.
"While we are glad University Place School District has agreed to compensate a group of these victims we are looking forward to uncovering systemic failures in what lead to this hiring," said Vincent Nappo, one of the lawyers representing the victims.
"What happened to these young boys is unconscionable. Under no circumstances should a sexual psychopath be permitted to coach children in our schools," added Ashton Dennis, another lawyer representing the victims.
Three cases against the district are still in litigation, which is set for trial in May of next year, according to lawyers for the victims.