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BREAKING NEWS

In a landmark development that reverberated through Oregon’s legal landscape, justice prevailed for one survivor of sexual abuse in the St. Helens School District in Oregon. Major media are reporting on a recent settlement obtained by attorneys Stephen F. Crew and Peter B. Janci and the team at Crew Janci LLP for an Oregon survivor of sexual abuse in a local public school.

The $3.5 million settlement stems from a lawsuit filed against the St. Helens School District by a single student (referred to in the case using the fictitious name “Jessica Doe” to protect her privacy). Major media report that the settlement is the largest amount ever paid to a single plaintiff in a public school sexual abuse case in Oregon. In fact, the media is reporting that the settlement is also larger than any jury verdict in a sexual abuse case against a public school district in the state.

“We are incredibly proud of both our courageous client and the tireless work of our legal team,” said attorney Peter Janci. “Our team doggedly championed the cause of the victim in this case. Over the course of four years and in the face of a scorched earth defense, our team maintained a commitment to protecting the rights and dignity of the young woman impacted by the District's egregious failures and left no stone unturned in their pursuit of justice. Our team’s innovative approach and meticulous preparation laid the groundwork for this groundbreaking settlement, which will help ensure our client has the resources she needs to pursue healing.”

“Most of all, we want to pay tribute to the extraordinary patience and resolve of our client. In the fight for justice, she is the true champion, leaving an indelible mark on the path towards a safer environment for the next generation of students in Oregon’s public schools,” said the survivor’s attorney Peter Janci.

Peter JanciAttorney & Partner, Crew Janci LLP

The victim in the case was sexually abused by a teacher and coach at St. Helens High School in 2017 and 2018. The perpetrator—Kyle Wroblewski, a teacher and coach in the St. Helens School District—has since been convicted and incarcerated for multiple counts of sexual abuse and misconduct occurring over several years. 

Crew Janci LLP filed a lawsuit for the victim against the St. Helens School District in the Fall of 2019—alleging claims of negligence and violations of Jessica Doe’s civil rights, as well as violations of Title IX’s prohibitions of sex discrimination. At the core of most of these claims was the allegation that the St. Helens School District knowingly placed the victim in harm’s way, acting with “deliberate indifference” to the known danger posed by the perpetrator (Kyle Wroblewski). The lawsuit alleged that the school district failed to take appropriate action to prevent or address the abuse despite being aware of complaints and concerns raised by students, parents, and staff.

The District defended the case and eventually filed a motion for summary judgment, challenging the evidence. A federal judge (U.S. Magistrate Judge Stacie F. Beckerman) reviewed the evidence in the case and denied the district’s motion for summary judgment, finding that there was evidence that the District knew about the danger and acted with deliberate indifference.

In denying the District’s motion to throw out the case, Judge Beckerman noted the following evidence uncovered by Crew Janci LLP as important:

  • The superintendent refused to fire the teacher (Wroblewski) despite the administrator’s recommendation. Multiple district employees—including high-ranking administrators—ignored red flags, reports, and warning signs about the perpetrator. One example included the District ignoring the recommendations of two different principals who wanted to fire Wroblewski, one as recently as 2015.
  • Two different superintendents, two different principals, administrators, an athletic director, and teachers “dropped the ball and turned a blind eye,” and many are still working at the district or in other school districts now, attorney Peter Janci told the Oregonian newspaper. Many still work at the district or in other school districts now, he noted.
  • Despite a decade-long history of complaints about Wroblewski’s predatory behavior on the job, no one restricted or limited his access to high school girls or reported the abuse as mandatory reporters under state law, Doe’s lawyers said.
  • “Despite years of substantiated reports of misconduct from dozens of students, (Kyle) Wroblewski’s admissions that he couldn’t stop his behavior, and an administrator’s call for his termination, the extent of Wroblewski’s actual discipline was a one-day suspension,” wrote Judge Beckerman in her Opinion.

Crew and Janci said school district officials knew how the district had failed their client but still put her through several years of litigation after she filed suit in 2019.

The effect of the judge’s ruling was that the victim’s case was “greenlighted” to proceed to a jury trial. After that decision, the District eventually decided to settle the case rather than face a jury verdict.

Attorney Stephen F. Crew was quoted in the Oregonian newspaper explaining the significance as follows:

“There’s been absolutely no accountability for [any individuals] at the school district as a result of this. At every single level, there were failures. Failure to report. Failure to discipline. Failure to supervise him. Failure to follow up. Failure to keep adequate records…Out of all of this, nobody has been disciplined. Nobody’s been reprimanded.”

Stephen CrewAttorney & Founder, Crew Janci LLP

Despite receiving complaints and warnings from dozens of students, parents, and staff members, over a ten-year period, the district failed to take decisive action to protect its students from harm. As a result, the district’s inaction allowed Wroblewski to groom the 16-year-old Jessica Doe on the track team in 2017 and sexually abuse her on school grounds and at his home for over seven months until his arrest in 2018.

The settlement will provide some measure of compensation and closure for the survivor of the abuse. Meanwhile, attorneys at Crew Janci LLP are also pleased that it has prompted a public discussion and potential reforms within the St. Helens School District and other educational institutions regarding policies and procedures for addressing allegations of sexual misconduct and protecting students from harm.

“We are hopeful that the ripple effects of this monumental settlement will extend far beyond this case and will set a new benchmark for victims of sexual abuse in public schools,” said the victim’s attorney Peter Janci.

Peter Janci

Peter has represented more than one hundred victims of sexual abuse over nearly a decade. In Spring of 2010, Peter Janci served as part of the Plaintiff’s trial team in Kerry Lewis v. Boy Scouts of America — a child sexual abuse trial in Portland, Oregon that resulted in a $19.9 million verdict for the Plaintiff. Peter has tried a number of jury and bench trials, in addition to representing clients at arbitration and meditation. Peter has also helped obtain dozens of other significant settlements for other survivors of sexual abuse.