OLYMPIA - The parents of a 6-year-old girl who allegedly was molested by a former Olympia school bus driver has put the Olympia School District on notice that they intend to sue for $2.25 million.
Gary Shafer, 32, of Port Orchard has pleaded not guilty to two counts of first-degree child molestation for alleged sexual assaults of two 6-year-old girls on a school bus in December, while he was acting as a helper on a route for Centennial Elementary School. Shafer was being held Friday at the Thurston County Jail, with bail set at $50,000.
Shafer had worked for the school district since October 2005 and had driven several routes, school district spokesman Peter Rex has said.
Shafer was placed on administrative leave the first week of January, when the Thurston County Sheriff’s Office contacted the school district about the allegations. He resigned Jan. 19.
Shafer’s most recent bus assignment was Route 41, which serves Reeves Middle and Hansen Elementary schools.
He passed the criminal background check required under state law when he was hired, Rex said Friday, adding that Shafer had no previous disciplinary actions on his employment record with the district.
Rex declined to make any additional statements Friday, citing the district’s policy not to comment on pending litigation. He said he had not seen the tort claim notice sent to the district by Tacoma attorney Darrell Cochran.
The tort claim notice was mailed to Olympia School District Assistant Superintendent Jennifer Priddy on Thursday. In the letter, Cochran writes that the “district’s lack of oversight and lack of response to a clearly dangerous situation is really appalling.”
Rex has said Shafer acted as a helper on a bus, riding as a passenger to learn another driver’s route so he’d know it when acting as a substitute for that driver.
According to Cochran’s letter, acting as a helper gave Shafer “occasion to sexually assault girls as they sat on Shafer’s lap.”
Cochran wrote that he reserves the right to modify the $2.25 million claim. “The Plaintiffs have recently learned of the assault and are just beginning to realize the complete magnitude of the injury here,” he stated.
Jeremy Pawloski: 360-754-5465 email@example.com