Kiwanis’ insurer settles case with abuse victims.
Insurance companies are paying $6 million to settle a lawsuit brought against Kiwanis clubs and the international organization by seven men who were allegedly sexually abused at a Centralia boy’s home over the course of many years.
From 1971 to late 1994, the state of Washington funded group home placements for pre-teens and adolescents between the ages of 10 and 17 years old at the Olympia Kiwanis Boys Ranch, also known as the O.K. Boys Ranch or OKBR, and the Kiwanis Vocational Home or KVH, later the Coffee Creek Center. The state placed boys who had trouble adjusting to foster care families at the Kiwanis Vocational Home, which operated from 1979 to 1994.
Allegations of sexual abuse started as early as 1982, but victims have alleged KVH’s director dismissed or covered up the reports. In 1991, this director was accused of sexually abusing the boys himself and eventually resigned. His replacement was later accused of physically abusing the boys and yet Child Protective Services (CPS) was never called. By 1985, reports of sexual abuse between residents and by staff and other adults were commonplace.
In a 1989 audit of the OKBR boy’s home, the facility failed to meet eight of the ten minimum requirements for licensing, and yet, the auditor’s report was ignored, and the home was re-licensed. The recent lawsuit alleged that Kiwanis knew of allegations of abuse at this center but allowed the facility to remain open. According to police reports, eventually criminal charges were brought against the OKBR administration as well, but the prosecutor declined to pursue these charges. The prosecutor was the president-elect of the Olympia Kiwanis Club.
Attorney Darrell Cochran said, “Washington state has paid $29.6 million to settle claims brought by 54 former residents. The state similarly paid out tens of millions of dollars to former residents of the O.K. Boys Ranch operated by the Olympia Kiwanis club after allegations there prompted news stories and legislative hearings in the 1990s. The evil that existed at the Kiwanis Vocational Home is impossible to overstate.”
In court documents, the boy’s home defendants argued that the area’s Kiwanis clubs “had no role in the day-to-day operation of the boys’ home.” However, the plaintiffs’ other attorney, Richard Kelley, said in 1994 that the O.K. Boys Ranch residents underwent physical abuse including being “beaten with socks with batteries in them. They would go to the staff and tell the staff this had happened to them and almost every one of them were told, ‘you are going to have to take care of it yourself. This is the law of the jungle at the Boys’ Ranch.’”
Previous settlements against Kiwanis operated boys’ homes have been reached. The latest settlement is one of many. And, yet Kiwanis refuses to take any responsibility.
“Plaintiffs have not brought claims against their actual abusers. Instead, they seek to hold various non-profit Kiwanis entities liable for the alleged criminal acts of third parties,” the defendants wrote in a trial brief in the KVH case, referring to the widespread allegations related to all of the homes.