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Verdicts & Settlements

Middle School Settles Decade-long Sex Abuse Allegations

— April 1, 2021

Issaquah Middle School agrees to settle minor sexual assault case.

Issaquah Middle School in Seattle has agreed to pay $4.25 million to settle a lawsuit alleging former middle school drama teacher, Richard Buckley, sexually assaulted his student, Courtney Dennis, for almost a decade.  According to the lawsuit, Buckley started “grooming” Dennis in the late-90’s when she was only 12 years old.  He was never criminally charged for the alleged abuse, and the statute of limitations has reached its term.  In 2003, however, he was convicted of first-degree child molestation against Dennis’s younger sister.

According to the suit, “Buckley was hired in 1992 and would often give female students rides home, hold group meetings with students at his house and stay with them after school, sometimes past dinnertime.  When teachers and parents complained to the district, officials disregarded the concerns because Buckley had curried favor and protection from the administrators as a ‘talented’ teacher who was destined to take the drama department to great heights.”

Middle School Settles Decade-long Sex Abuse Allegations
Photo by Tim Gouw on Unnsplash

Darrell Cochran, one of the attorneys representing Dennis, said, “The settlement is indicative that the Issaquah School District recognized how badly it behaved and how badly Courtney was injured.”  He continued, “When Buckley met Dennis, her parents were divorcing, and he “recognized the weakness in the avenue of access to (her and her sister).  The lawsuit states further, “In 1998, Buckley started driving Dennis and her younger sister home from school almost every day, and the sexual assaults began after that, continuing before, during and after school.  Issaquah Middle School administrators knew that Buckley’s behavior was inappropriate, but they took little action, prioritizing the drama program over protecting young female students from his paraphilic interests.”

Buckley resigned in June 2000 and used letters of recommendation to secure a teaching position with the Orcas Island School District.  He would go on to sexually assault another teenage female student over two years in his new position.  In 2003, Buckley sentenced to 4-and-a-half years to life in prison for the case against Dennis’ sister.  He served seven years behind bars.

The Issaquah School District released a statement in response to the settlement suggesting that the decision was primarily based on the fact that the allegations happened years prior and the costs would be covered by its insurance company.  The statement reads, “This matter is being settled prior to trial.  The case arose based off of circumstances that happened in the district decades ago.  The decision to settle was made considering a number of factors, including providing compensation for a severe breach of trust by a teacher at the time.  All costs of the settlement will be covered by the district’s insurer.  While Issaquah School District denies any negligence by the district, we acknowledge settling is a better solution for everyone involved.  Regardless of the lawsuit and the legal process, the district condemns, in the strongest sense, any abuse of a minor.”  Thus, an agreement was reached without any admission of wrongdoing.

Buckley thanked the efforts of her attorney and said she is just glad the ordeal is over.


School District Agrees to $4.25M Sexual Assault Settlement

Issaquah School District settles negligence lawsuit for $4.25 million

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