Teacher is charged with sexual abuse and school district settles allegations that it knew and did nothing.
Seattle Public Schools (SPS) is set to pay a former Ballard High School student $3 million to settle sexual abuse allegations. Originally scheduled to go to trial on June 20, the lawsuit had accused SPS assistant soccer coach and instructional assistant Meghan Miller, who had worked with special needs students before her arrest, of sexually abusing the female teen on a weekly basis beginning in 2016 when she was only 15. This abuse continued for two years.
“She thinks it was roughly 100 times or more,” said the plaintiff’s attorney Steven Reich with Pfau Cochran Vertetis Amala PLLC. “It was happening on a weekly basis, sometimes on campus, sometimes off campus.”
The teen said in court documents she was “struggling with social and emotional challenges and Miller used these issues to develop a friendship with her. Over the next two years, Miller became a central figure in the girl’s life, letting her vent her frustrations about her parents, walking her to class, visiting with her before and after class and exchanging social media direct messages. The two exchanged messages, which were often sexual in nature, almost daily.”
Miller was eventually charged with child molestation and sexual misconduct with a minor. She was convicted of both crimes and is now a registered sex offender.
Senior deputy prosecutor Emily Petersen wrote at the time of Miller’s conviction, “The defendant cultivated a relationship with the child, earning not only her trust but the trust of the victim’s family. Once the relationship between the defendant and victim was established, the defendant then began to sexually abuse the victim. The defendant told the victim not to tell anyone about the abuse, thereby creating a situation where it could continue for a significant period of time.”
In December 2020, the student subsequently filed her suit against the district claiming it was liable for allowing Miller to work with students even though she was a danger to them and that SPS had failed to protect her from being assaulted. The student’s attorney was able to uncover evidence showing SPS knew about previous inappropriate behavior that had occurred before Miller was offered a job at Ballard in 2010.
Court documents show Miller was hired in 2007 by SPS at Roosevelt High School where she served as an assistant girls’ soccer coach and basketball coach. She was employed there for two years but was terminated in 2009 after her “supervisors observed a pattern of predatory behavior with students.”
Beverly Redmond, assistant superintendent of Public Affairs at Seattle Public Schools, issued a statement after the settlement, saying, “SPS contacted law enforcement in October 2018, as soon as we learned that Ms. Miller was alleged to be having inappropriate sexual contact with a student. Ms. Miller was subsequently charged and convicted of her crimes. After this lawsuit was filed, SPS participated in good faith in several mediations to reach a mutually agreeable financial resolution with the plaintiff. SPS paid approximately $77,000 of the settlement and the Washington Schools Risk Management Pool paid $2,923,000. SPS Human Resources has now implemented a central review process when hiring with all positions as a further safeguard against employing individuals with a questionable employment history.”