Court dismisses negligence claims against school district
After two former West Linn High School students filed a $6 million lawsuit over a year ago against the West Linn-Wilsonville School District, arguing that the district was negligent and failed to provide protection against sexual abuse by a former teacher in 2015, another former student filed a tort claim, which announces intent to file a lawsuit for damages, saying the teacher had inappropriate sexual contact with him as well.
"It might not be possible to recount the specific dates of the assaults, but they began sometime after the football jamboree in 2015," the claim, filed in September 2017, reads. "A claim for damages will be filed against the school and the school district."
As for the lawsuit filed by the first two students, the court dismissed the plaintiff's claims of negligence against the district last month.
Earlier this month, the plaintiffs filed for a limited judgment, which would allow them to appeal the dismissal of the negligence claims before going to trial on the remaining "vicarious liability" claims, where an employer can be liable for negligent acts of its employee if it can be shown the act took place under the scope of employment.
The vicarious liability claim — which focuses on the teacher's conduct in forming a relationship with, and then abusing the plaintiffs — says the district had the capability of controlling the employee's action to a degree, and failed to do so.
The hearing on whether to grant limited judgement is scheduled for Nov. 6.
The suit, filed in the Clackamas County Circuit Court, alleged that former teacher Jonathan Peachey touched a then-17-year-old boy and a then-14-year-old boy in a sexual manner on multiple occasions at a private home in Lake Oswego.
According to a Tidings news report at the time, in July 2015, Peachey was house-sitting for a family friend at a Lake Oswego home where the then-17-year-old alleged that the touching occured over a week-long period. The two slept in the same bed at the Lake Oswego home and the 17-year-old said at one point, Peachey grabbed his genitals. The allegations relating to the then-14-year-old boy also took place at the same Lake Oswego home on one occasion later that summer. Peachey was alleged to have groped this boy as well.
Peachey — who was a Spanish and English Language Development teacher at WLHS, and an adviser for the Ski Club and Link Crew — was sentenced to 36 months of probation and a suspended sentence of 60 days in jail by Lake Oswego Municipal Court in 2016 after pleading guilty to sexual abuse
As part of his sentence, Peachey was also ordered to register as a sex offender and pay restitution to his victims for counseling. He was not to have any contact with the victims or their families, and can no longer have any contact with minors, except in supervised settings with family members. His teaching license was also later revoked.
The original suit claims that the school district failed to investigate rumors that Peachey had inappropriate relationships with students, failed to report suspected child abuse by Peachey and continued employing Peachey after allegations against him, among other claims. The district said it had no knowledge of the alleged rumors, and immediately reported the plaintiff's allegations to the police when it became aware of them.
In September, the judge granted the district's motion to dismiss the negligence claims, agreeing with the district that the plaintiffs were not able to prove, with facts, that the district had any knowledge of Peachey's behavior. The plaintiff believes that order
was wrong and wants to appeal it.
But under court proceedings, a party cannot appeal decisions until a final judgement is made. If limited judgement is granted to the plaintiffs, it would allow them to appeal the negligence claims and then head to trial.
"The opinion disposed of that entire claim against Defendant," the court document reads. "Plaintiff asks that this Court find that there is no just reason for delay and enter a limited judgment on that claim, so that Plaintiff may immediately appeal."
If the plaintiff cannot appeal prior to the trial, this would result in two costly and lengthy trials. So what has now erupted into a procedural fight — where the school district would rather go straight to trial on the remaining vicarious liability claims and then have the plaintiff go to the court of appeals following the trial — will be hashed out during the Nov. 6 hearing.