One of the sex abuse victims of a former Dufur coach has sued Dufur School District and three officials, alleging the district violated her civil rights by failing to prevent the coach’s predatory behavior.
The lawsuit alleged Ty Wyman, who was convicted of sex abuse against two female students, was “conspicuous” in his behavior with the plaintiff, and his interactions with her were “widely known.”
The suit alleges at least five district employees, including three teachers, the guidance counselor, and the school principal, witnessed Wyman’s inappropriate and predatory behavior both on and off campus, but took no steps to report or investigate the matter.
Wyman, now 29, was arrested in May 2017 on eight counts related to sexual assault and misconduct. In August 2018, he pleaded guilty to second-degree sexual abuse, attempt to commit a felony (unlawful first-degree sexual penetration), and first-degree official misconduct. He was sentenced to 40 months in prison.
He had worked for the district as a janitor, bus driver and track coach.
The civil rights lawsuit, filed in federal court in Portland, does not seek specific damages, but calls for an amount determined by a jury.
The suit names the district, the school board, Superintendent Jack Henderson, his daughter McKenzie Henderson, who is the school guidance counselor, and then-Principal Leo Baptiste.
The suit notes Wyman was not the first district staffer to sexually abuse a student. A former Dufur volleyball coach, Angela Lindell, was arrested in 2012 and accused of having sexual relationships with multiple male students. In that case, the suit alleges, there were also “widespread rumors” about what was happening. School staff heard of it, “yet initially no steps were taken to further report or investigate such rumors,” the suit alleged.
Peter Janci, an attorney for the plaintiff, said his law firm specializes in sex abuse cases involving organizations. “I think what’s notable in this case is the warning signs that were observable by the perpetrator, Mr. Wyman, were coming close on the heels of another sex abuse situation that the school was being confronted with. The district can’t say they didn’t know this could happen in their small town. It had just happened.
“I think the evidence is going to show the warning signs and grooming was out in the open and was observable and was egregious and it called for action,” Janci said.
He said it is commonly understood that abuse itself happens in private, “but we see the flags, we see the warning signs, we see the grooming behavior.”
The suit alleges the school district acted with “deliberate indifference” and violated the plaintiff’s rights by not properly following its own policy to report possible sex abuse, and by not training staff to recognize and report possible abuse.
The suit alleges McKenzie Henderson was close friends with Wyman and his wife, and Henderson often went to the Wyman’s house while the plaintiff was there, and did not question it.
The suit alleges then-26-year-old Wyman began grooming the plaintiff, who was then 16, in October 2016 by directly texting her.
By January 2017, the suit alleges, Wyman told her he had sexual feelings for her and began “stalking” her around the school and “noticeably singling” her out for special attention, including sitting for long periods with her in class, talking to her in class, talking intimately to her in the hallways and exchanging treats and snacks, both in classrooms and in his janitor’s office.
By late January, the suit alleges, Wyman began sexual contact with the plaintiff, including hugging and kissing both at school and at his home. He told her to send him nude pictures of herself and she complied, the suit alleged. He then told her to erase them.
By February, the relationship “was discussed widely throughout the school” and had become known to certain school staff. But no steps were taken by the district, the suit alleges.
In early 2017, the plaintiff brought food from McDonald’s to Wyman at the janitor’s office. Baptiste saw her leaving his office and told her to report to the guidance counselor “to discuss the inappropriate nature of her conduct and for possible followup with Wyman,” the suit alleges.
The suit alleges McKenzie Henderson “disregarded the incident and did not report or investigate further.”
Jack Henderson provided a comment on the lawsuit from the district, via email: “We cannot comment on the lawsuit itself, but our primary goal as a district remains educating our community’s children in a safe and wholesome learning environment. Our district cooperated fully with law enforcement in their investigation, and we intensified our training efforts on boundary invasion after these allegations came to light. We are working to ensure that all our staff have the information and skills to identify potential problems and prevent harm to students and staff.”
The suit alleges that school staff didn’t question Wyman about the nature of his relationship with the plaintiff, didn’t investigate rumors of their sexual relationship and didn’t report reasonable suspicion of child abuse.
The suit also alleges that in March 2017, Wyman bought the plaintiff alcohol and took her back to his house, where he did a forcible sex act. The plaintiff immediately left and cut off contact with him.
Wyman then began grooming another female student, including talking to her in the halls, sitting next to her in class in view of teachers and exchanging treats and gifts, the suit alleged.