Lawsuit Filed Against Walla Walla Public Schools Following Allegations of Sexual Misconduct

WALLA WALLA, WA-

A lawsuit is being brought against Walla Walla Public Schools by the mother of a former seventh-grade student at Pioneer Middle School. Allegedly, the then 12-year-old was sexually harassed between 2015 and 2016 by Michael Jones, a music teacher at the school.

Darrell Cochran is the attorney representing the family. He says this is a civil lawsuit alleging negligence against Walla Walla Public Schools who hired Michael Jones back in 1990.

Walla Walla Prosecutor Jim Nagel says Michael Jones was not charged with child molestation. 

Cochran says Walla Walla Public Schools received reports of sexual misconduct from students but did not take proper action.

"One of the reasons for bringing the lawsuit is to reinforce to school districts that their priority is not only to protect the child...But believe a child when they make an allegation like this," said Cochran.

Cochran says WWPS did an investigation in 2008 after several mothers and young girls came forward with complaints. Cochran says WWPS did not fire Jones, but said the allegations were unsubstantiated and allowed him to stay on as the choir director.

"The prior abuse reports, especially those that came forward in 2008, are identical to what happened to our client in 2015 which is exactly what we expect to see with a molester teacher who develops a grooming pattern and replicates that over and over again," said Cochran.

Cochran said Jones offered private voice and guitar lessons to people in the community including his students.

He also adds that after his client reported their experiences, Jones was under investigation and there was a conclusion that he did abuse their client - and Jones resigned and left.

"One of the reasons to bring a lawsuit like this is to bring attention to it. Show children who are out there that there's support for them and that hopefully they can find the courage to come forward," said Cochran.

He says they want to hold Jones accountable and wants Walla Walla Public Schools to do what they're supposed to do when it comes to protecting students.

Walla Walla public schools sent NBC Right Now this statement regarding the lawsuit:

"A lawsuit has been filed against Walla Walla Public Schools. The lawsuit alleges that during the 2015-2016 school year a former teacher, Mr. Michael Jones, allegedly engaged in misconduct.

The District takes the allegations in the lawsuit very seriously. The safety of our students is, and has always been, our number one goal. The District remains committed to ensuring an environment where all of our students feel safe.

Walla Walla Public Schools recognizes that the allegations set forth in the lawsuit touch upon sensitive subjects for all the involved individuals. We are unable to offer any further comment on the lawsuit or the specific allegations contained in the lawsuit at this time.

As this matter proceeds through the litigation process, the District will remain committed to providing a safe and positive educational experience for all of its students, teachers, parents, and the community."