SIBLEY, Iowa — The Sibley-Ocheyedan Community School District, together with three other Iowa school districts, are set to enter into a $650,000 settlement agreement for their roles in failing to report inappropriate behavior by a former coach and teacher Kyle Ewinger, which later led to a minor male juvenile being sexually assaulted on S-O grounds.
According to John M. Sandy, one of three attorneys representing the juvenile boy and his mother — known in the complaint as C.A. and J.A., respectively — the Sibley-Ocheyedan, Akron-Westfield, Mediapolis and Sioux City school boards have approved the settlement agreement.
Sandy said the then 10-year-old boy that Ewinger admitted to sexually assaulting in his classroom in 2015 suffered "horrific acts" that no child should have to endure.
"Children in school must be protected and nurtured," he said. "If the schools in this case had taken appropriate action with this predator, this life-altering assault would have been prevented."
As of Tuesday morning, the settlement agreement surrounding a handful of negligence claims hadn't been officially filed in Osceola County District Court, where the civil suit was originally filed in 2017. According to Sandy, the agreement had to undergo a conservatorship proceeding and be approved first by the court because of the minor age of the child plaintiff.
According to S-O Superintendent Jamie Craig, the northwest Iowa school district checked Ewinger's records with the Iowa Board of Education Examiners and his former employers prior to his hire at S-O.
"Unfortunately, information was withheld," Craig said, adding that the Iowa state legislature recently tightened the law related to reporting teacher discipline due to issues with students to the BOEE.
Craig added that student safety is a top priority of S-O schools.
"Recruitment and development of teachers is vital to ensuring students can grow and develop in a safe setting," he said.
Prior to Ewinger's employment at S-O, he taught in 2004 at Mediapolis Community School District, where he allegedly committed similar sexually abusive conduct on another student. Instead of reporting Ewinger to the Iowa BOEE, the district reportedly agreed to provide a "neutral letter of recommendation for future employers" in exchange for Ewinger's voluntary resignation, a press release states.
Ewinger then taught at Akron Westfield, where the district discovered the alleged inappropriate behavior Ewinger committed at the Mediapolis district. Akron Westfield also failed to report its knowledge of inappropriate behavior to Ewinger's future employer, the Sioux City Community School District.
While at Sioux City, another allegation of inappropriate behavior was reported, but the school district reportedly failed to properly investigate the allegation and communicate that information to Sibley-Ocheyedan, the last district to employ Ewinger.
Ewinger is currently serving a 55- to 85-year prison sentence at the Tecumseh State Correctional Institution in Tecumseh, Neb. in relation to sexually assaulting his girlfriend's 9-year-old son in Omaha, Neb.
Sandy called the outcome of this case a victory for parents and school children across Iowa.
"Schools are now on notice that they will be held accountable when they are more concerned about passing the trash and looking the other way than the safety of school children," he said. "We hope this settlement will bring awareness for the need for not only schools, but all institutions who work with children, to be transparent and aggressive in vetting who will be interacting with those most vulnerable in our society."