Spokane School District faces bullying, sexual assault lawsuit

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SPOKANE, Mo. -- A former student’s family is suing the Spokane R-VII school district and three current and former employees after the student alleges they didn’t do enough to stop bullying and sexual abuse he suffered while playing for the baseball team.

The lawsuit says that last year three older students pinned the alleged victim, a sophomore, in the dugout and “touched him in a sexually overt manner,” and includes a graphic example. Documents say a fourth student told the victim not to say anything.

The alleged victim’s father declined to comment except to say that he didn’t want this to happen to any other students. His son has switched school districts.

In addition to the district, Spokane High School Principal Chris Kohl, former superintendent Daryl Bernskoetter, and former baseball coach Zach Leonard were named as defendants. Kohl is now on paid administrative leave.

The family says that Coach Leonard heard about the incident, but didn’t report it to a hotline. Instead, a teacher reported it a week later. They say another student claimed to witness the assault, and then-superintendent Bernskoetter suspended the attackers five days, but commuted it to three.

Coach Leonard allegedly gathered the team together after one of the assaulters body slammed another player months later and told his team not to tell anybody about it, and said, “whatever happens on the baseball field should stay on the baseball field.”

The suit charges Kohl, Bernskoetter, and Leonard with negligence and breach of ministerial duties, charges the school district with vicarious liability, and charges all four of them with violation of the Missouri Human Rights Act. It doesn’t ask for a specific amount of money. The plaintiffs are seeking a jury trial.

Terry Jamieson took over as Spokane’s superintendent in July, and wasn’t employed in the district when any of the alleged acts took place. He says he’s unaware of specific details, and can’t comment on litigation, but said, “we're cooperating with all investigative aspects and we're placing the safety and security of our students as the number-one priority."