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Seven-figure settlement reached in kindergarten sex lawsuit against Tacoma schools

A family sued Tacoma Public Schools, alleging a 5-year-old student was sexually abused by a classmate in 2014.
A family sued Tacoma Public Schools, alleging a 5-year-old student was sexually abused by a classmate in 2014. Thinkstockimages.com

A family that sued Tacoma Public Schools for allegedly failing to prevent sexual assault in a kindergarten classroom agreed this week to settle the lawsuit for $1.2 million, the family's attorney said.

The suit, filed April 3 in Pierce County Superior Court, alleged a 5-year-old student at Grant Elementary School was sexually abused by a classmate in 2014. The suit also says the teacher failed to supervise her students and that concerns about that had been brought forward in the past.

The family’s attorney, Darrell L. Cochran, said there should have been multiple processes in place to prevent the incident.

“The case serves as a painful but important reminder about the high level of vigilance a school and, more broadly, the district needs to maintain to protect children from sexual abuse,” Cochran said.

School district spokesman Dan Voelpel said the settlement, which will be paid by the Washington Schools Risk Pool, is "to the benefit of all parties."

"Going forward, the district will continue to provide education and training to administrators and staff on the issue of sexual misconduct in an ongoing effort to prevent such unacceptable behavior," Voelpel said.

The teacher, Sandra Holmes, was fired following the incident. Holmes denied wrongdoing and sued for wrongful termination in U.S. District Court. A judge previously dismissed the complaint, and she appealed the decision. Holmes taught for 42 years and had worked in Tacoma since 2006.

Because of the nature of the allegations, The News Tribune is not naming the student, or her mother, who brought the lawsuit on her behalf.

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