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Denton Field in Miles City

The scoreboard at Denton Field in Miles City during the Class A semifinal football game in 2010. A civil lawsuit alleging sexual abuse of student athletes by a former Custer County District High School trainer was filed Friday.

The alleged victims of a former Miles City high school athletic trainer accused of sexually abusing dozens, possibly hundreds, of boys over decades are asking the school to implement safeguards to help ensure such abuse is not repeated.

While Miles City attorney Bryant Martin said Thursday it’s far too early in the case to discuss possible monetary damages, he said the proposed school policies — including required sexual abuse training for staff, certifications for future athletic trainers and annual written statements from staff promising to report any knowledge of abuse — may be more important.

“As an outsider, not a victim, I think it’s very important to prevent more victims, and even if there’s no money involved. The least we can do is to get these types of things to prevent it happening again,” Martin said.

Similar to a recent Montana case involving decades of sexual assault against minors committed by clergy in the Great Falls-Billings Diocese, the lawsuit demands the district publish letters of apology, stating that the alleged victims “were not at fault for the abuse and that the district takes responsibility for the abuse.” The lawsuit requests the letter be mailed to alleged victims, displayed on the district’s website for five years and published in the local newspaper.

Martin noted the diocese bankruptcy settlement, which required the church to post the names of 27 former clergy online for a 10-year period and publish notices encouraging other victims to report instances of abuse, served as an inspiration for some of his plaintiffs' demands.

The public apology in particular is something that "our clients are entitled to,” said Daniel Rice, another Miles City lawyer representing the plaintiffs.

Most of the corrective actions proposed for the district, the attorneys said, were specific requests made by their clients.

“What this case is about, to these guys, is making sure that no one else lives through the horror of what they have lived through, and have been dealing with for the last 20 to 30 years,” Rice said. “This was systemic. There were — as adults looking back on it — red flags everywhere.”

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He noted that as the case progresses and more alleged victims come forward, the specific demands for relief may be modified.

The lawsuit makes the following demands of the district:

  • Athletic trainers must possess a bachelor's or master’s degree from a professional athletic training education program and pass a test administered by the Board of Certification. Sports physicals would have to be administered by a medical doctor. The former trainer, James "Doc" Jensen, was neither certified nor a licensed medical professional, according to the complaint.
  • The district must annually “arrange and provide appropriate training for identifying and reporting instances of sexual, physical or psychological abuse or suspected abuse.”
  • The district must implement policies prohibiting leaving students alone with faculty members while “in a nude or partially clothed state,” and requiring district employees to avoid being alone with any student outside school grounds.
  • No staff offices at the school can have a view of students while showering or changing clothes. The complaint states Jensen’s office window looked down on the shower area of the boy’s locker room at the high school. Rice said Thursday he believes that to still be the case.
  • The district must post signage in all locker rooms encouraging students to report abuse or suspected abuse to the principal’s office.

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Morning Reporter

General assignment reporter for the Billings Gazette.