Marysville to pay $3.5M to former students for alleged sex abuse

The district settled the lawsuit over incidents from the 1980s. Kurt Hollstein remained employed until June 2021.

Marysville

MARYSVILLE — The Marysville School District is set to pay out $3.5 million and offer a written apology to two former students who say they were sexually abused by a longtime teacher.

Kurt Hollstein was an art teacher who also served as the cheerleading adviser in the mid-1980s.

Around 1985, Hollstein began driving a student home from school, the woman said in a deposition on Sept. 16 last year. From then, she said, Hollstein developed a “closeness” with her “almost like a boyfriend.”

Her first memory of Hollstein inappropriately touching her was in a film darkroom at the junior high school in the spring of her eighth-grade year, she said. She was about 14 years old.

Hollstein would pull her from class and sexually abuse her in the darkroom, she said during the September deposition. The abuse continued through her ninth grade year, two to three times a week, she said.

Hollstein was allowed to take students one-on-one into the film processing room, also known as the “darkroom.” Another former teacher said he did not remember a policy that would have prohibited Hollstein from taking a student into the darkroom alone, according to a Sept. 21 deposition.

The abuse continued as the student moved on to Marysville Pilchuck High school, she said.

At 15, she missed her period and approached Hollstein with concerns about being pregnant. At the time, she said, “I was emotionally becoming just really messed up and damaged. I was just sad.”

The last sexual contact, she said, was in the spring of her tenth-grade year. She described it as “aggressive.”

After the alleged abuse ended, it was like the student “disappeared,” a former classmate and current district employee said during a Nov. 15 deposition.

The student “was involved in everything in middle school and junior high,” the classmate said. “And it just seemed in high school she just fizzled away in the strangest way. But she was very withdrawn. I didn’t see her at all the events … she just wasn’t the same girl.”

Her grade point average dropped from 3.5 in eighth grade to 0.33 in her second semester of tenth grade.

One woman filed a lawsuit in March 2021 claiming she was “discriminated against because of her sex” and as a result was harmed physically and emotionally after being coerced into performing sexual acts. One other victim later came forward.

Both victims were members of the cheer team, said their attorney, Ashton K. Dennis. They both accused Hollstein of grooming them.

Hollstein declined to speak about the allegations, Dennis said.

In early 2021, Hollstein was still serving as the athletic director at Marysville Getchell High School. He was employed by the district until June 30 .

“During the time that the student was attending school in the 1980s, and up to the commencement of a legal claim, the alleged staff misconduct was not disclosed to any school or District administrator,” district spokesperson Jodi Runyon wrote in an email to The Daily Herald.

In January, Snohomish County Superior Court Judge Paul Thompson ruled the Marysville School District violated the state’s Law Against Discrimination. Washington school districts may have liability for acts by their employees on school grounds, including intentional sexual misconduct, according to the state law.

“Due to very recent changes in the law in Washington State, a school district can be held strictly liable for sexual abuse of a student by any staff member at school … regardless of whether the District knew of any misconduct,” Runyon wrote. “… the District believes any such abusive conduct by staff towards any student is a breach of trust that is inexcusable.”

The statute of limitations for childhood sexual abuse in Washington allows victims to seek compensation when they discover the abuse caused injury.

“These victims went through years of abuse, which continues to impact them to this very day,” Dennis said.

A civil trial had been set to begin Monday, but the case was settled this month.

The school district’s insurers are covering the costs of the settlements and defense.

Isabella Breda: 425-339-3192; isabella.breda@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @BredaIsabella.

If you are struggling, help is available:

CARE Crisis Line: (425) 258-4357 or 1-800-584-3578 (North Puget Sound); Online Crisis Chat: imhurting.org (24/7).

Crisis Prevention & Intervention Team: (Snohomish County) (425) 349-7447.

National Sexual Assault Hotline: 1-800-656-4673; Online chat hotline.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255.

Northwest Network of Bi, Trans, Lesbian, and Gay Survivors of Abuse: (206) 568-7777 (Non-Emergency); TTY Message: (206) 517-9670.

Pathways for Women: (425) 774-9843.

Protection Order Assistance Program: (425) 388-3638.

Providence Sexual Assault Center: (425) 252-4800.

WA Warm Line, a peer support group for people living with emotional and mental health challenges: 877-500-9276 or 866-427-4747.

Talk to us

> Give us your news tips.

> Send us a letter to the editor.

> More Herald contact information.

More in Local News

A big decision for Boeing’s next CEO: Is it time for a new plane?

As Boeing faces increased competition from Airbus, the company is expected to appoint a new CEO by the end of the year.

A Mukilteo Speedway sign hangs at an intersection along the road in Mukilteo. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Mukilteo Speedway name change is off to a bumpy start

The city’s initial crack at renaming the main drag got over 1,500 responses. Most want to keep the name.

Two workers walk past a train following a press event at the Lynnwood City Center Link Station on Friday, June 7, 2024, in Lynnwood, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Trains up and running on Lynnwood Link — but no passengers quite yet

Officials held an event at the Lynnwood station announcing the start of “pre-revenue” service. Passengers still have to wait till August.

Nedra Vranish, left, and Karen Thordarson, right browse colorful glass flowers at Fuse4U during Sorticulture on Friday, June 7, 2024, in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
A promenade through Everett’s popular Sorticulture garden festival

Check out a gallery of the festival’s first day.

Left to right, Everett Pride board members Ashley Turner, Bryce Laake, and Kevin Daniels pose for a photo at South Fork Bakery in Everett, Washington on Sunday, May 26, 2024. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
Second Everett Pride aims for even bigger rainbow of festivities

Organizers estimated about 3,000 people attended the first block party in Everett. This year, they’re aiming for 10,000.

A house fire seriously injured two people Friday evening, June 14, in Edmonds, Washington. (Courtesy of South County Fire.)
1 killed, 1 with life-threatening injuries in Edmonds house fire

South County Fire crews pulled the man and woman from the burning home around 6 p.m. Friday, near 224th Street SW and 72nd Place W.

Melinda Grenier serves patrons at her coffee truck called Hay Girl Coffee during the third annual Arlington Pride event in Arlington, Washington on Sunday, June 2, 2024. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
Hidden costs, delays crush hopeful food truck owners in Snohomish County

Melinda Grenier followed her dream to open Hay Girl Coffee. Thousands in fees later, it has cost her more than she bargained for.

The I-5, Highway 529 and the BNSF railroad bridges cross over Union Slough as the main roadways for north and southbound traffic between Everett and Marysville. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Highway 529 squeeze starts now between Everett, Marysville

Following a full closure for a night, starting late Sunday, Highway 529 will slim down to two lanes for months near the Snohomish River Bridge.

Lynnwood
New Jersey auto group purchases Lynnwood Lexus dealership land

Holman, which owns Lexus of Seattle in Lynnwood, bought property on which the dealership resides.

Marvin Arellano (Photo provided)
Family: ‘Manic episode’ preceded trooper shooting man on I-5 near Everett

“It’s very, very unfortunate how he was portrayed in his final moments,” Gilbert Arellano said. “He was just such a good person.”

Two visitors comb the beach at Kayak Point Regional County Park on Friday, June 14, 2024, in Tulalip, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Kayak Point reopens ahead of schedule

The county’s most popular park reopened Friday.

Grauates throw their caps in the air at the end of Arlington High School graduation at Angel of the Winds Arena on Thursday, June 13, 2024 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
‘So worth it’: Snohomish County graduates step into their futures

Alyssa Acosta, who is Harvard-bound, was one of thousands to walk the stage at Angel of the Winds Arena this month to get high school diplomas.

Support local journalism

If you value local news, make a gift now to support the trusted journalism you get in The Daily Herald. Donations processed in this system are not tax deductible.