Crime

Archdiocese helped sexual abuser teach in Pierce County public school, suits allege

A teacher who sexually abused students at Catholic schools across the country did the same at a Pierce County public school, where the church helped him get hired, two lawsuits allege.

The Seattle Archdiocese recently agreed to settle one of the suits for $1.3 million; the other is ongoing.

Both were brought by adults who say they were abused as children at Parkland Elementary School in the 1980s by teacher Edward Courtney. Both suits blame the archdiocese for Courtney being hired at the public school.

Courtney was part of the Christian Brothers religious order, and was on a list the archdiocese released last year of 77 other brothers, priests, deacons and nuns accused of abusing children.

Attorney Jason Amala, who represents the victims in both suits, said in a statement: “Our law firm has represented many child abuse survivors, but we have never seen a case where the defendant removed a known abuser from their private school system and then actively helped them get a job in the public school system.”

Archdiocese spokesman Greg Magnoni said Friday: “In all cases, we seek settlement that will help victims to heal and hopefully to bring some measure of closure after they have experienced an abuse.”

He pointed to the court records for a response to the allegation that the archdiocese helped Courtney transition to public teaching.

A response filed last year in the now settled lawsuit says in part: “To the extent that plaintiff alleges inappropriate conduct by Courtney, any such acts were outside the scope of his duties, responsibilities and mission as a Christian Brother or as a lay teacher or principal.”

Any damages the student suffered were caused by third parties, such as Courtney and the school district, it states.

Courtney was not criminally charged for either case, because the victims came forward in recent years, after the statute of limitations had expired.

The News Tribune wasn’t able to locate him Friday.

The ongoing lawsuit was filed last year, and identifies the victim by the initials D.W. The complaint doesn’t provide details of the abuse, except to say it happened when Courtney was working at Parkland, and D.W. was a student there.

The recently settled suit was filed in 2015, and court records give a detailed account of what happened.

Because the case is finalized, the victim agreed to speak with The News Tribune, on the condition he be identified by his initials, M.R.

At 47, he said he still has nightmares about the abuse.

“I was 12, and I didn’t tell anybody,” he said. “I buried it.”

In recent years, he started to talk about what happened, and has gone through counseling.

Records from his lawsuit give this account of how Courtney ended up at Parkland Elementary when M.R. was a student there:

As a brother, Courtney was transferred among schools as he abused children in Illinois, Michigan and Washington in the 1960s and 1970s.

The Seattle Archdiocese knew he’d abused children as the principal at St. Alphonsus Parish School and while working at O’Dea High School in Seattle, but administrators didn’t report Courtney to the state, even though state laws required them to do so.

And administrators wrote letters of recommendation for Courtney, and verified his employment for his teaching certificate, which helped him start teaching in public schools in 1980.

“... no steps were taken to ensure that Courtney’s teaching days were over,” the suit reads. “Instead, the defendants got rid of their problem by helping him obtain employment in the public school system, specifically Parkland Elementary School.”

He raped M.R. the next year, when he brought the child to his apartment for a milkshake and shower after playing handball.

“There’s other victims out there,” M.R. told The News Tribune. “There has to be.”

D.W.’s suit also names the district.

Franklin Pierce Schools spokesman Willie Painter said Friday that the district is aware of the lawsuits but “doesn’t comment on matters that are or might become matters of litigation.”

M.R. doesn’t blame Franklin Pierce, saying the archdiocese could have stopped Courtney.

“They didn’t do their job,” he said. “They didn’t protect the kids.”

He hopes sharing his story will help other victims come forward.

“The money is a very small piece of it, to me,” he said about his decision to sue.

Today, he’s a teacher and coach himself.

“I wanted to be the teacher that kids could trust and depend on,” he said.

As for Courtney, he moved on to Othello, where he pleaded guilty to one count of indecent liberties with a minor in 1988, after public school officials there reported him to police.

He would be in his early 80s now.

In 2013, he signed a sales document notarized in Honolulu when he sold his Seattle-area home, The Los Angeles Times reported.

Alexis Krell: 253-597-8268, @amkrell

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