Tumwater schools pay former Black Hills student $300,000 over sex abuse allegation

Staff writerDecember 17, 2013 

The Tumwater School District's insurer has agreed to pay a former Black Hills High School student $300,000 to avoid litigation over allegations that a former teacher's aide began an improper sexual relationship with him, starting when he was 16.

The former teacher's aide, Courtney Keller, 29, is charged with four counts of sexual misconduct with a minor for the alleged relationship with the former student, who is now 18.

Keller has pleaded not guilty to the charges, and her case is scheduled to go to trial in March in Thurston County Superior Court. According to court papers, Keller met the teenager while supervising him in detention.

Tumwater police arrested Keller in April, based on the former student's disclosure that he had an inappropriate relationship with Keller that progressed to sex over time, court papers state.

The former student has told police that the relationship with the then-married "detention lady" progressed from flirting, to making out, to sex, court papers state. Starting the student's junior year in high school, the woman also began providing him "with tobacco and painkillers," including Vicodin and Percoset, court papers state.

The student also told police Keller once accompanied him to a party at a fellow student's home, court papers state. He showed police text messages between him and Keller that were "sexual in nature" and that referenced a past sexual relationship, according to court papers.

The former student dropped out of Black Hills High in the fall of 2012, his senior year, his attorney, G. Saxon Rodgers, said in a prior interview. Rodgers also said that the young man has suffered as a result of his former relationship with Keller.

Rodgers also said the inappropriate relationship was common knowledge among students at the high school.

In May, Keller's aunt, former Black Hills assistant principal Darice Bales, resigned from her job at the high school. At the time Bales resigned, the Tumwater School District was investigating the allegations of sexual misconduct by Keller at the school.

Rodgers could not be reached for comment Tuesday after the Tumwater School District released the terms of the settlement. The Olympian had filed a formal public records request asking for the details of the case's disposition.

The district's insurer agreed to pay the $300,000 settlement to avoid litigation alleging the district was negligent in its handling of the matter.

Tumwater police interviewed the former student's mother during their investigation, and she said she once became upset with her son when Keller gave him a ride home after school, court papers state. She also said she thought it was odd that her son was spending so much time in detention with Keller without being referred there, according to court papers.

A judge deemed Keller competent to face criminal charges in October after an earlier mental health evaluation at Western State Hospital, court papers state.


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

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