CEDAR RAPIDS — The Marion Independent Community School District on Tuesday paid a fourth settlement of $900,000 to parents of a former Starry Elementary kindergartner who was sexually abused by a volunteer.
The district now has agreed to pay $2.7 million to settle lawsuits filed against the district and teacher Diane Graham by eight parents for not preventing and protecting their four children from sexual abuse by Logan McMurrin, 15 in 2015, who was convicted of three sexual abuse charges last year.
Three lawsuits were previously settled by the district for $600,000 each.
In a statement, Chris Dyer, Marion Independent Community School District superintendent, said the fourth lawsuit was dismissed Tuesday and the settlement was finalized “upon the advice from and through its insurance carrier, Employers Mutual Casualty Co., and its legal counsel.”
The insurance company negotiated a settlement with this family in exchange for a release of all claims against the district and Graham, according to Marion school officials.
Dyer forwarded the redacted settlements and the district’s statement to The Gazette Tuesday afternoon.
“Both the district and its insurance carrier believe it was in the best interests of the student and family involved, as well as the rest of the District’s students and staff to resolve this case now and avoid prolonged litigation,” the statement said. “The district always has and will continue to take seriously its responsibility under state and federal laws and board policy to provide a safe and healthy learning environment for its students.”
Dyer, in this statement and last month, said that the district will continue to have student and adult volunteers in the classroom. The district always had internal review processes for the volunteers, but the district “identified and implemented policy changes related to those procedures in December 2016.”
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It states all volunteers will be subject to the same screening procedures used in hiring regular school employees, which includes requiring references who will be contacted before the volunteer begins.
The district also may request information on any previous criminal convictions, according to the policy.
The application for a student volunteer also includes questions as to whether the student has been convicted of a drug or sexual-related offense or an act of violence, and whether the student has been reported for “child abuse/sexual activities involving a student or minor” or had charges filed by a school district, police or court.
The first three lawsuits against the school district were dismissed with prejudice Nov. 10, meaning they can’t be refiled by the parents, and the fourth was dismissed with prejudice Tuesday.
The Gazette requested details of the settlements in October and, at the time, Dyer said he couldn’t provide them until the negotiations were finalized.
The district has another lawsuit pending against the district and another teacher, Sara Sievers, who testified at Graham’s trial, by parents who claim their child, while at Starry Elementary was sexually abused..
The child, five years old at the time of the abuse, was in Sievers’s kindergarten class and repeatedly was molested by the volunteer in August 2015, the suit claims.
The volunteer is not named in the suit but Sievers testified at Graham’s trial that she had McMurrin as a volunteer for a week in 2015. The suit also states this same volunteer went to help in Graham’s class in 2016.
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Graham was acquitted earlier this month by a Tama County jury for failing to report child sex abuse in her classroom as a mandatory reporter, a simple misdemeanor. The trial was moved from Linn County based on extensive pretrial publicity.
During her trial, two 6-year-olds girl, who were 5 years old when the abuse happened, testified they told their teacher, Graham, that McMurrin was sexually abusing them.
Graham testified the girls didn’t tell her. After receiving an email from one of the girl’s mothers, Graham told the elementary principal and then it was moved up the “chain of command.”
The prosecution argued Graham didn’t report the incident to the Iowa Department of Human Services or police, as required by law.
Following the acquittal last month, the district released a statement following the Tama County verdict that stated Graham remains a teacher but the “district is in the process of reviewing Ms. Graham’s status with her.”
Dyer didn’t return an email request Tuesday that asked if Graham is back in the classroom or still on administrative leave.
McMurrin was sentenced last year to the Iowa State Training School for Boys in Eldora. He will remain there at least until he is 18 years old.