Oregon school district pays historic $3.5M settlement after shielding predatory teacher for decades

An Oregon public school district has agreed to pay $3.5 million for failing to prevent a former teacher from sexually abusing a 16-year-old student.

The former student, referred to as “Jessica…

An Oregon public school district has agreed to pay $3.5 million for failing to prevent a former teacher from sexually abusing a 16-year-old student.

The former student, referred to as “Jessica Doe,” filed the lawsuit against the St. Helens School District in 2019, claiming the district failed to protect her from Kyle Wroblewski, a former track coach and social studies teacher.

The school board, superintendent, high school principal and high school guidance counselor were also named as defendants.

“We believe the evidence will show that the school knew with certainty this teacher and coach posed a danger to female students – and they chose to prioritize the career of the teacher over the safety of students,” Doe’s attorney Stephen Crew said. “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.” 

The suit claimed Wroblewski had a long history of inappropriate conduct with female students dating back to 1998, when he worked at Springfield High School. 

Wroblewski, then 24, began a romantic relationship with his 17-year-old student, who later became his wife. 

In 1999, he transferred to St. Helens High School, where the inappropriate conduct followed.  

The teacher was first reprimanded for inappropriate behavior in 2008 after multiple occasions of sexual misconduct and sexual harassment were reported. 

The lawsuit said Wroblewski would caress female students’ hair, initiate massages, make comments about their scent, and assist girls in stretching exercises.  

In his first disciplinary letter, the principal ordered Wroblewski to have no further physical contact with students. 

In 2009, Wroblewski received a second letter and was suspended without pay for three days after the school received more complaints about his behavior, which included privately texting one student, talking with another student about the “missionary” sexual position, and allowing females to congregate at his desk during class time.  

“The punishment fits the infraction,” St. Helens High School Principal Nanette Hagen wrote to the coach at the time. “You have been guilty of serious misconduct. … Your behavior is strictly forbidden by state and federal law as well as the district’s policies.” 

Hagen also contended that “more serious disciplinary action is probably also warranted even though it was not taken.” 

An investigation found all complaints against Wroblewski were substantiated.  

The lawsuit alleged the district’s lax discipline enabled Wroblewski to continue grooming and sexually abusing students, including Doe. 

During the 2017-2018 school year, rumors of the then 43-year-old teacher’s inappropriate relationship with the minor student “was discussed widely throughout the school.”  

In November 2017, a teacher witnessed Wroblewski embracing the plaintiff in his classroom.  

In January 2018, another student notified numerous district staff of her concerns regarding the situation. One district employee told the student to “exercise discretion” due to the severity of the allegations. 

In April 2018, Doe informed a female track coach that she had been cutting herself and was feeling suicidal. 

A counseling session was set up with school counselor Heather Anderson-Bibler. Anderson-Bibler allowed Wroblewski to participate in the private session, even though Doe’s parents were never informed their daughter was even meeting with the counselor. 

“Despite rumors and conspicuous signs of Wroblewski’s abuse of Plaintiff, no steps were taken by Defendants or their agents to investigate, report, or prevent Wroblewski’s future abuse of Plaintiff,” the lawsuit stated.  

The abuse continued until Wroblewski was arrested in May 2018 at his home, where he had taken the day off work to meet with the plaintiff and further abuse her. 

After Wroblewski’s arrest, Doe said the past sexual abuse occurred in various places, including school grounds and Wroblewski’s residence. 

Wroblewski later pled guilty to five counts of second-degree sexual abuse and was sentenced to four years and two months in prison. 

“This case is not a matter of poor judgment or misplaced affection, but rather evidence of chronic, long-term sexually predatory behavior in a school,” District Attorney Jeffrey Auxier said during Wroblewski’s sentencing. 

The settlement marks the largest sex abuse settlement paid by a public school district in Oregon. 

“We believe that this matter has been resolved in the best interest of all those involved,” the school district said in a statement, according to Oregon Public Broadcasting.