Former athletics trainer James “Doc” Jensen molested at least 32 students over the course of two decades. The lawsuit claims Miles City Unified didn’t do enough to protect its kids.
Miles City Unified School District will pay $9 million to 32 victims of a former high school athletics trainer, James “Doc” Jensen.
According to The Billings Gazette, the suit was first filed in September 2018. It accuses Jensen—a longtime athletics trainer at Custer County District High School—of abusing “scores” of athletes over the course of several decades. Despite the scope of Jensen’s crimes, the complaint says Custer County District High School never did much to stop him.
Jensen, recounts the Gazette, worked as a trainer at Custer High from the 1970s through the late 199s. In that time, he devised something he called “The Program.”
“The program,” says the Gazette, was a system Jensen claimed would enhance young athletes’ performance by increasing their testosterone. To do that, Jensen told his wards he’d have to masturbate them.
An attorney for the victims, John Heenan, suggested the $9 million award isn’t the only thing his clients wanted.
“For these guys, in a lot of ways it was never really about the money,” Heenan said. “It was about justice. They measure justice by where Jensen is now and will remain, by the changes in the law.”
KXLH-9 Helena reports that Jensen, now aged 79, has been tried and convicted on numerous criminal counts. In July, he was sentenced to 12 years for coercion and entitlement; and in August, he was given another 20 years in state prison for possession of child pornography.
When the suit was first filed, Miles City and its affiliates pushed back against victims’ claims. The district’s insurer also tried to dodge responsibility, filing its own suit to waive financial culpability.
Heenan said his clients and the defendants may’ve reached a resolution through dialog.
“We went through a two-day process where all of our guys were in a room—and folks from the school board—all came together. And I think everyone came to the understanding that these guys deserve to heal,” Heenan said. “This community deserves to heal, a resolution like this is what healing looks like.”
In a statement, Miles City and its attorneys say they “deeply regret the pain and injuries the plaintiffs have experienced. We hope that settlement [sic] will allow the Plaintiffs to move forward with the healing process.”
As part of the settlement, the district will institute policies better protecting students from abuse.
“The District has adopted and will continue to adopt policies and procedures regarding the prevention and reporting of abuse or harassment, including those recommended by the Montana School Board Association and the U.S. Department of Education,” the statement says.
Some of its policy revisions include mandatory reporting protocols as well as enhanced policies on how to deal with harassment.
Heenan suggested that some of the money his clients collected will be used to advocate for other victims of child sex abuse.
“We will have more exciting news about where some of this money is going to go,” he said. “And how it’s going to help other child sex abuse victims in the future.”