Utah school district to pay $48K after a teen boy was sexually assaulted by teammates

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Misty Cox engages with her 14-year-old son, Greg, as their attorney Bob Sykes holds a press conference in his office in Salt Lake City on Thursday, Oct. 18, 2018. Sykes filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of Misty Cox and her son, a student subjected to sexual assault, sexual violence and bullying by three of his male peers before a school football practice at Gunnison Valley High School on Sept. 17.

The South Sanpete School District will pay $48,000 to settle a lawsuit filed by a 14-year-old boy who was sexually assaulted by three members of his high school football team last year.

The boy’s mother, Misty Cox, alleged in the lawsuit that school officials knew the boys had a “pervasive and extensive history” of harassment that stretched over two years and did nothing to address it — leaving her son, Greg, vulnerable to an attack.

Court documents filed Tuesday in federal court outline a $48,000 payment to settle the suit. The law firm that represented Cox and her son will be paid $30,000, according to the document, and Greg, who is now 15, will receive $18,000 when he turns 18.

U.S. District Court Judge David Nuffer approved the settlement on Tuesday.

After Greg reported he had been sexually assaulted, more than a dozen other students also reported to authorities that they had been sexually abused by the same 16-year-old boy, a star athlete at Gunnison Valley High School.

The 16-year-old eventually admitted to eight counts of forcible sexual abuse in juvenile court, and was ordered to complete therapy and move out of Sanpete County to live with his grandparents in St. George.

At the boy’s sentencing hearing in February, several victims credited Greg with giving them the courage to report that they, too, had been abused.

Greg told a school resource officer last September about how the older teen had tackled him and had two other boys hold him down as he rubbed his genitals in his face.

After that report, several other victims — mostly boys who also played sports at the small high school — came forward alleging the perpetrator had squeezed their genitals and put his finger in their buttocks on several occasions. Prosecutors estimated that the boy had perpetrated at least 25 incidents of sexual assault against a dozen students.

The Salt Lake Tribune generally does not identify victims of sexual abuse, but Greg agreed to be identified by his first name. The newspaper also does not name youth defendants unless their cases are moved to the adult court system.

Cox and her son alleged in the lawsuit that school officials knew of several instances of sexual misconduct but had dismissed it as “horseplay” or “boys being boys.”

The lawsuit alleges administrators knew not only of the abuse, but also heard reports from a bus driver who had complained that the boys had been “depantsing” others on the bus, and several girls had reported that the 16-year-old boy had sent them unwanted sexual text messages.

Greg had been assaulted by the three boys just weeks after he started attending Gunnison Valley High School, according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit says Greg was bullied and teased after reporting being assaulted, and he suffered from trauma that has required therapy.