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Miles City school board responds to sex-abuse investigation

BILLINGS – The chair of the Miles City Unified School Board is responding to the massive sex abuse case, where the district is named in a lawsuit.

School board chairman Bob Wagner, said the board “will be working around the clock” on an exceptionally difficult process of investigating what took place decades ago when the former athletic trainer allegedly sexually abused possibly hundreds of boys.

Wagner read a statement on the investigation aloud during a Thursday meeting, according to a statement sent to MTN News from the school district’s attorney. The entire statement is posted below.

In the statement, Wagner said the district is dedicated to finding out what acts took place, also saying coaches and administrators who were present at the time are shocked at the allegations.

A civil lawsuit has been filed charging James ‘Doc’ Jensen of sexually abusing male students during his time at Custer County High School when he worked as the athletic trainer.

Jensen was employed in the 1970s and left the district in 1998. He still lives in Miles City. During his 28 years working as an athletic trainer for the Custer County District High School in Miles City, Jensen groomed and sexually abused as many as 100 boys, according to a lawsuit filed Friday.

The suit, filed in Custer County District Court in Miles City, names Jensen as a defendant, along with the Miles City Unified School District, the high school, and 18 victims identified as John Doe representing as yet unnamed school and athletic officials who may have known of Jensen’s alleged sexual abuses and failed to stop him.

“This was a structured, sophisticated system of ritual sexual abuse,” said Miles City attorney Daniel Rice, who filed the suit with his partner Bryant Martin and Billings attorney John Heenan.

The 18 victims in the lawsuit are “just the tip of the iceberg,” Heenan said.

The Miles City Unified School District is also named in the suit. Also in the statement, officials said in the coming months, they will be taking part in the legal aspects of all of the case.

The Montana Department of Justice has launched an investigation into Jensen as hundreds of victims could be out there.

Jensen has not been charged with a crime. Several, if not all, of the allegations, could fall outside Montana’s statute of limitations for sexual-abuse cases.


Statement of Miles City Unified Schools 9/27/18:

I would like to begin tonight by making a statement on behalf of all of us at Miles City Unified Schools. We are, naturally, extremely concerned about the well-being of the men who filed the Complaint. The allegations made in the Complaint are horrific, wholly unacceptable, and heartbreaking for those of us who dedicate our lives to children. As a member of this community, I am personally appalled and outraged that all of us in Miles City have unknowingly lived among this type of activity.

Our District is working around the clock to get to the bottom of exactly what has taken place. This is an exceptionally difficult process, given that these acts took place 20, 30 and 40 years ago. But to the extent the District has any information, we are dedicated to finding it. I can say that coaches and administrators who were present at the time are in shock at the allegations.

In the coming months, the District will be taking part in the legal aspects of all of this. I want to be clear—at no time will this school district lose sight of the men who have signed this Complaint. But we also want to know exactly what the District’s involvement was. And as the facts of the past will affect our educators today, we cannot jump to conclusions and must allow the legal process to play out.

I would like to restate to our parents, and our community, that Miles City Unified Schools focus on protecting students, identifying and reporting any potential issues. In short, we stop at nothing to ensure the safety and well-being of our students. I ask that our community continue to remain patient as we work through gathering information and to help avoid unfounded rumors.

-Andrea Lutz reporting for MTN News

Mark Thorsell

Mark Thorsell

Mark Thorsell is a digital content producer and editor at KPAX and KAJ. He is originally from Connecticut and moved to Montana over a dozen years ago. Mark has worked as a journalist for 25 years.
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