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Lawsuit against school, coach and country club in sexual assault case still pending

October 9, 2018

SCOTTSBLUFF — A lawsuit against the Scottsbluff school district and a coach convicted of sexually assaulting a student remains pending in federal court.

In November 2017, a woman, identified as Jane Doe, filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Nebraska just days after a Scotts Bluff County District Court judge sentenced former Scottsbluff golf coach Michael Klein to 24 to 32 years in prison on four counts of first-degree sexual assault, a Class II felony. The woman filed suit against Klein, Scottsbluff Public Schools and the Scotts Bluff Country Club, where Klein had also coached as an assistant golf pro.

The woman was one of two victims cited in criminal proceedings as having been sexually assaulted by Klein while he served as a golf coach for Scottsbluff. In her lawsuit, the woman alleges that Klein quickly developed a sexually and emotionally abusive relationship with her after she joined the golf team as a freshman and that he sexually assaulted her for three years. She says he used his position of authority to facilitate the abuse, including requiring the woman to spend additional time with him and having her work out at his home gym. She alleges she was abused at facilities where practices were held, including at the Scotts Bluff Country Club. She alleges she was groomed by the coach and suffered harassment that continued after she quit the golf team and while she was attending college. In the suit, the woman alleges that the school district showed deliberate indifference of the sexual abuse and harassment committed by Klein in violation of Title IX and deprived her of her civil rights. She also claims negligence on behalf of the district.

In its latest motion, filed on Oct. 2, the Scottsbluff Public Schools, through its attorney, has filed a motion to dismiss, alleging that the plaintiff had not filed written notice with the school district within one year of the claim accruing or begun a lawsuit within two years.

In her allegations against the school district, the woman alleges that parents had made complaints to the school district’s athletic director and other school personnel, and cites specific reports made by parents to school personnel that she alleges occurred in 2008 and in 2010. The woman says a “brief, cursory inquiry” was made in 2010, but describes it as “wholly inadequate” in failing to protect her.

In its response, the school district says that under the Political Subdivisions Tort Claims Act, the plaintiff needed to file a notice of claim within one year of the occurrence or before the plaintiff turned 21 years old and that the act requires that a suit must be started within two years. However, the school district says it is also exempt from other longer statute of limitations because of the Political Subdivisions Tort Claims Act, because it is protected from claims arising out of assault or battery.

In her claim against Klein, the woman alleges sexual battery, sexual assault and intentional infliction of emotional distress. In a hand-written response filed in December 2017, Klein denied the allegations, though he admitted that he had filed a no contest plea to the charges

The woman also claims that the Scotts Bluff Country Club was negligent in protecting her from Klein and she says the man arranged to get her hired at the country club in order to continue his control over the woman. She alleges that management knew Klein had an improper relationship with the girl and he “was confronted about it on multiple occasions.” The woman alleges Klein was terminated due to the improper sexual relationship and complaints about his conduct, though in its response, the Scotts Bluff Country Club denies knowledge of the relationship. In its response, filed in January 2018, the country club cites a lack of knowledge on much of the allegations made by the woman. The country club admitted that Klein had been terminated in the fall of 2008, citing job performance issues, but that the country club did not intervene or act because it did not have knowledge or notice of an “improper relationship” involving Klein and Doe at the time of his employment. The Scotts Bluff Country Club also cites that it believes the plaintiff failed to cite an actionable claim within the statute of limitations.

Currently, in schedule for progression, the case is scheduled for trial in June 2019, with a pre-trial conference in May 2019.

mloeks@starherald.com

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