October 29, 2019, Portland, OR –
A lawsuit was filed today by a former St. Helens High School student alleging that the St. Helens School District failed to protect her from child sexual abuse by a teacher in 2017 and 2018.
The suit, filed in federal district court in Portland today, alleges that then St. Helens High School teacher and track coach Kyle Wroblewski sexually abused the Plaintiff on multiple occasions over approximately seven months in 2017 and 2018. The suit alleges that Plaintiff was 16 years old when the abuse began; the perpetrator was 43 years old. (The victim is referred to in the suit under a pseudonym to protect her identity.)
The suit alleges that “[o]ver the decade leading up to the abuse of Plaintiff in this case, Defendants became aware on multiple occasions of sexual misconduct and sexual harassment by Wroblewski towards students in the District.”
Wroblewski was arrested in May of 2018 on 32 counts of second-degree sexual abuse, two counts of official misconduct and one count of contributing to the sexual delinquency of a minor.
During the criminal case, documents filed by the Columbia County District Attorney’s office revealed that ten years prior, in April 2008, the School met with Wroblewski to confront him about concerns about his behavior towards students. A letter from the District memorializing that meeting details sixteen different issues of concern, including: “running [his] hands through girls’ hair and giving shoulder massages, smelling girls and referring to their ‘delicious’ perfume, behaving in a manner that students refer to as ‘too touchy’ and a specific situation regarding helping a female student stretch out at track.” The School commanded that Wroblewski have “no physical contact with students unless necessary to prevent injury to the student or provide assistance in an emergency situation.”
Despite this reprimand, School District documents show that Wroblewski continued in his pattern of inappropriate boundary violations with female students. According to another letter from the District (a copy of which was submitted in the criminal case against Wroblewski), in 2009 the School District received more complaints about Wroblewski’s behavior – including making sexualized comments to a female student about sexual positions, being caught privately texting with a female student, manipulating a situation to be alone with a female student at school on the weekend, and fraternizing with female students at his desk during class hours.
Documents show the School understood the seriousness of Wroblewski’s conduct, informing him by letter that: “You have been guilty of serious misconduct; as indicated above, your conduct constitutes sexual harassment of students. Your behavior is strictly forbidden by state and federal law as well as the District’s policies.”
“The School found Wroblewski ‘guilty’ of ‘sexual harassment of students.’ But other than multiple empty warnings, the School did nothing. You can’t stop a sexual predator with a warning and a second chance. We believe the evidence will show that the school knew with certainty that this teacher and coach (Kyle Wroblewski) posed a danger to female students — and they chose to prioritize the career of the teacher over the safety of students,” said attorney Stephen Crew from the Portland-area law firm Crew Janci LLP, which filed the suit on behalf of the Plaintiff. “Despite it all, the St. Helens School District continued to allow Wroblewski to serve as a teacher and coach – giving him continued access to children.”
Today’s lawsuit alleges that the St. Helens School District was negligent in failing to take action to address the risk posed by Wroblewski towards students at St. Helens High School. The lawsuit also alleges that the School District violated the victim’s civil rights, was “deliberately indifferent to the safety of students,” and acted with “reckless and outrageous indifference to a highly unreasonable risk of harm with a conscious indifference to the health, safety, and welfare of Plaintiff.” In addition to compensatory damages, the lawsuit asks for punitive damages to punish and deter repetition of this type of behavior.
“This is not a case where there was any reasonable question about what was going on. This predatory teacher was exhibiting the same types of sexual harassment of students that the School District had found him ‘guilty’ of years before. The evidence will show that students were reporting to staff about concerns regarding this teacher and other staff were observing warning signs with their own eyes. Yet, no adult did anything meaningful to protect this girl or other students,” said Peter Janci, attorney for the victim.
On August 19, 2019, Wroblewski was sentenced to 50 months in state prison after pleading guilty to five counts of second-degree sexual abuse. In the sentencing recommendation submitted by Columbia County District Attorney Jeff Auxier, the State informed the Court that Wroblewski had “shown a consistent pattern of sexually predatory behavior in which he has used his position of authority to not only gain access to this victim, but to repeatedly engage in sexually inappropriate conduct with other students as well.” The State went on to argue that that the State’s recommended (90-month) sentence was “necessary to protect the public” given Wroblewski’s “repeated and brazen violations, committed while in a position of academic and athletic trust as a teacher and coach at the school.”
During sentencing arguments, Columbia County District Attorney Jeff Auxier also noted that “the defendant’s years of unchecked predatory conduct at school is just one example of his unwillingness to conform his behavior to basic rules and laws,” noting that even while Wroblewski was on court-supervised release pending his criminal trial he abused the same victim yet again.
“We handle these cases all over the country and this is one of the most egregious cases we have ever seen,” said attorney Peter Janci. “There was no question that this teacher – Kyle Wroblewski – was a predator and was using his position of trust to openly prey on students. We intend to prove that the School didn’t just miss the warning signs – they willfully chose to ignore a clear threat to the health and safety of students.”