Jury to decide if Bethel School District was negligent in rape case

OLYMPIA, Wash. — A divided state Supreme Court has ruled that a jury should decide whether a school district was negligent in a case where a junior high school student was raped off campus by a high school student and fellow track member who was a registered sex offender.

In a 5-4 ruling Thursday, the high court affirmed a Court of Appeals ruling against Bethel School District. While the high school principle was aware that Nicholas Clark was a registered sex offender, that information was not relayed to coaches or teachers, the court noted.

The majority ruled that the district had “a duty to students to use reasonable care to protect them from foreseeable injuries” and that whether the assault fell within that scope should be decided by a jury.

The dissent argued that the majority’s ruling was too expansive and “exposes school districts to liability for events over which they have no control.”