Kennewick School District’s insurance company paid $250,000 to three former students who say they were sexually abused by longtime teacher and coach William “Bill” Pickerel.
The payment was part of a settlement between the district and the students, ending a civil trial on whether the district was liable for Pickerel’s abuse.
The settlement was reached last year, but the details weren’t made public until the Tri-City Herald recently obtained the documents through a Washington Public Records Act request.
The district doesn’t admit fault in the six-page settlement.
School district officials declined Monday to talk about the settlement.
So did Jeff Kreutz, attorney for the students, pointing to a clause in the pact that prevents him and his clients from discussing the terms.
Pickerel, a once-revered educator who even had a building named after him at Kennewick High, had a stunning fall from grace. He was arrested in 2007 and pleaded guilty the following year to abusing five Tri-City boys on trips to the Seattle area.
He also admitted to molesting numerous other boys over his long career.
In all, 15 former students sued Kennewick schools in Benton County Superior Court, saying the district knew or should have known that Pickerel was a danger and that it didn’t do enough to protect them.
The case was broken up into four separate trials.
The settlement, finalized in June 2017, was reached shortly into the first trial.
The second trial ended in March with the jury clearing the school district of negligence in two of the former students’ alleged abuse and deadlocking on the other two.
The split hinged on a phone call made by a parent in the '90s, one juror told the Herald.
The mother called the then-principal of Kennewick High, saying she was concerned about sleeping arrangements on an overnight trip her son took with Pickerel. The teacher slept in the same bed as the boy.
Pickerel, who spent most of his career at Kennewick High, was known for taking students on trips to events such as Mariners games. The trips weren't organized or sanctioned by the school district.
The juror said the phone call resonated.
Two of the former students allegedly were abused on trips that happened before that phone call, and in their cases the jury felt negligence wasn't proven, the juror said.
The two other former students allegedly were abused on trips taken after that call, and the jury split on whether the district bore responsibility. Half believed the district did, while the other half felt the phone call wasn't enough, the juror told the Herald.
The two deadlocked claims can be re-tried.
Kreutz said the intention is to fully pursue those claims.
It's unclear at this point exactly how that will work — whether the two cases will be folded into one of the remaining trials, whether they'll happen on their own, and the timing, said Kreutz, with Tamaki Law in Kennewick.
The two remaining trials aren't yet scheduled.
Pickerel joined the Kennewick School District in 1960. He retired in 1998, but continued substitute teaching until his arrest.
He served a little more than half of his 10-year prison sentence, released in 2014 on good behavior.
Now in his 80s, he lives in Seattle as a Level III sex offender.