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October 10, 2014 at 7:25 PM

14 former students sue Kennewick schools over alleged molestations

Tri-City Herald

Fourteen former Kennewick High School students sued the Kennewick School District on Thursday saying the district had failed to protect them from a former teacher and coach they say molested them.

The victims, identified only as John Does, filed the lawsuit in Benton County Superior Court.

All of the victims filed claims totaling $70 million against the district earlier this year, claiming sexual abuse by William Pickerel, who was convicted in 2008 of sex crimes against young boys.

Kennewick School District officials said in a news release that they are committed to the safety as well as the education of all district students and denied any wrongdoing because the alleged abuse happened off-campus and during non-school-sponsored events.

“Although extremely sympathetic to the purported victims of these unthinkable acts, the Kennewick School District will vigorously defend against all allegations that it is liable for the alleged acts of the perpetrator of those crimes,” the release said.

Most of the victims named in the suit were Kennewick High students in the 1990s and 2000s, but a few attended the school in the early ’80s.

Their ages range from 23 to 47. Most still live in the state, while a few live in Texas, Nevada and California. One serves in the military.

A King County jury convicted Pickerel, now 78, of molesting five Tri-City students that he took on sports outings to Seattle.

He was released from prison earlier this year for good behavior after serving 5-1/2 years of a 10-year sentence and is living in Seattle as a registered Level 3 sex offender.

Pickerel taught and coached wrestling in Kennewick schools for 37 years, mostly at Kennewick High, and the school’s annex was named after him until he was convicted.

The district has 20 days to respond to the lawsuit.

 

 

Comments | More in The Blotter | Topics: Kennewick, Tri-Cities

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