Dismissed: 1 of 2 sexual-contact lawsuits involving teacher

The judge cited the statute of limitations, and that might play a role in a second lawsuit, as well.

SEATTLE — One of two lawsuits alleging sexual contact between a Cascade High School teacher and former students has been dismissed.

U.S. District Court Judge James Robart ruled Tuesday in favor of the Everett School District, former Superintendent Carol Whitehead and teacher Craig Verver, who has been on administrative leave since October 2016.

Robart found that the statute of limitations had expired, according to court records. The woman bringing the lawsuit accused Verver of initiating sexual contact beginning in 2003 and alleged that the district should have prevented the abuse. Her attorney, Darrell Cochran, said Wednesday he plans to appeal the ruling.

“The dismissal is solely based on a technicality regarding when the federal court believes that a lawsuit should have been started,” Cochran said. “The ruling has nothing to do with whether Verver engaged in misconduct.”

A second lawsuit involving another student is scheduled for trial in December.

The case dismissed earlier this week was filed in September 2016. The complaint alleged that Verver began grooming the student during the 2001-2002 school year by singling her out for special treatment and commendations.

In a deposition, Verver acknowledged having sex with his former student on a couch in his classroom. He said the contact occurred after she graduated. He also acknowledged the relationship lasted at least seven years.

The student turned 18 in January 2003, and shortly afterward, the relationship became sexual, according to the lawsuit.

The other lawsuit alleges that Verver started grooming another student for sexual contact shortly after she became enrolled in his AP English class in 2008. In that case, the former student alleges sexual contact inside and outside the classroom and that he used “his position of power” for his own sexual gratification.

The student alleged the contact continued after she graduated and continued for several years.

Verver has denied allegations in the second case.

Everett Superintendent Gary Cohn reported the allegations in both cases to the state Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction, which can conduct its own disciplinary investigation. Verver has been employed at Cascade and with Everett Public Schools since 1997, teaching English and social studies.

In the lawsuit involving the second accuser, the district had an outside investigator look into the allegations in 2012. The former student at that time denied an inappropriate relationship occurred, according to the district.

The lawsuit claims the former student slowly came to realize that she had been abused as she gained experience working in a crisis residential center and also seeing the support that Verver’s other accuser received.

The lawsuit claims that school officials, including two principals, were alerted to concerns about Verver’s behavior but failed to protect students.

The district has disputed the allegations and defended the principals.

Michael Patterson, an attorney representing the school district, said he expects to make an argument that the statute of limitations expired in the second case as well.

“We are in the early stages of discovery on that (second case),” Patterson said. “It’s too early to say when that is going to occur.”

Eric Stevick: 425-339-3446; stevick@heraldnet.com.

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