Olympia schools' insurer to pay $750,000 to family of girl molested by former bus driver

Staff writerSeptember 5, 2013 

The Olympia School District's insurer has agreed to pay a local family $750,000 to settle a lawsuit that alleged the district failed to supervise a former bus driver who molested their then 6-year-old daughter.

The former bus driver, Gary Shafer, was sentenced in 2011 to 13 1/2 years to life in prison for sexually assaulting three girls on Olympia school buses, including the plaintiff's daughter.

Last year, a Thurston County jury awarded another victim's family $1.4 million after finding at trial that the district failed to properly supervise Shafer. That jury award has been appealed by lawyer for the school district.

A spokesperson for the Olympia School District could not be reached for comment Thursday.

During last year's jury trial, an attorney for the school district said that Shafer acted as a "helper" to learn the route home from Centennial Elementary School when the molestation of the then-kindergarten aged child occurred.

Tacoma attorney Darrell Cochran represented both the plaintiff who won the jury award last year and the family who will be paid $750,000 by the district's insurer.

In a news release announcing the $750,000 settlement, Cochran stated, "Red flags were going up everywhere, but the Olympia School District refused to pay attention. Gary Shafer rode on school buses all around the district with children on his lap, and with no other purpose than to molest school children."

During last year's jury trial, juror Nora Mena said she heard evidence that Shafer was seemingly "just riding around on buses" on his own time, unpaid, with no one above him keeping track of how often or why he was doing so.

"The one thing we all, all 12 of us agreed to, was that the district's supervision of Gary was inadequate," Mena said after last year's trial.

 

Jeremy Pawloski: 360-754-5445 jpawloski@theolympian.com

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