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Montana School District Settles With Abuse Victims

Custer County District High School
Kayla Desroches
Yellowstone Public Radio
Custer County District High School


A southeastern Montana school district Wednesday announced a settlement of $9 million with victims of an athletic trainer who molested students over a period of three decades.

The $9 million settles a civil lawsuit filed by 32 victims of former Miles City high school athletic trainer James “Doc” Jensen. The money will come from the school district’s insurers rather than from tax dollars.

The plaintiffs' lawyer Dan Rice calls the settlement “appropriate.”

“You know, it’s a start. It’s definitely get them an opportunity to pack everything back away and work on healing and there’s a lot of things that were accomplished by the case that were more important to them than the money, but some compensation certainly helps,” Rice said. 

The civil lawsuit implicated the Custer County school district for failing to report Jensen’s behavior following complaints in the 1990s and despite the abuse continuing over a period of three decades.

The settlement comes on top of federal and state cases that resulted in sentencing Jensen to 32 cumulative years on charges of coercion, enticement and child pornography.

Montana legislators passed a bill this year that removed the statute of limitations on child sexual abuse amid heightened attention to the issue. Rice says the change was due in part to the allegations against Jensen.

Rice and his clients had also requested policy changes as part of their civil lawsuit.

“And the school has indicated a willingness to make sure that they are keeping up to date with policies and making sure the kids are safe in school," Rice said. 

Lawyers for the school district declined to comment further than a press release dated to Wednesday.

In it, they write that there have been many changes in state and national laws, school policies and training, and that the district has adopted and continues to adopt policies and procedures regarding the prevention and reporting of sexual abuse and harassment.

They also wrote that they “deeply regret the pain and injuries the Plaintiffs have experienced.” 

Copyright 2019 Yellowstone Public Radio

Kayla Desroches reports for Yellowstone Public Radio in Billings. She was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, and stayed in the city for college, where she hosted a radio show that featured serialized dramas like the Shadow and Suspense. In her pathway to full employment, she interned at WNYC in New York City and KTOO in Juneau, Alaska. She then spent a few years on the island of Kodiak, Alaska, where she transitioned from reporter to news director before moving to Montana.
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