Settlement reached in sex abuse case

  • Written by Northwest Catholic
  • Published in Local
Archdiocese of Seattle coat of arms Archdiocese of Seattle coat of arms

SEATTLE – The Archdiocese of Seattle has reached a settlement with a man who was sexually abused by Edward Courtney while attending a Pierce County public school. Courtney, a former member of the Christian Brothers of Ireland, previously taught in Catholic schools.

In a statement, Seattle Archbishop J. Peter Sartain said he hopes the $1.5 million settlement will bring closure and assist the survivor in his healing process.

According to the archdiocese’s statement, the abuse occurred during the 1981-82 school year at now-closed Parkland Elementary School in the Franklin Pierce School District, where Courtney was a sixth-grade teacher. Courtney had previously taught at O’Dea High School (administered and operated by the Christian Brothers), then the archdiocese hired him as principal of St. Alphonsus School in Ballard. Courtney was forced to resign from St. Alphonsus in 1981 after a report of inappropriate behavior.

The man sued both the archdiocese and the Franklin Pierce School District. He alleged the archdiocese was liable for the abuse, claiming the archdiocese knew Courtney had abused students and failed to report him to authorities, according to a news release from the man’s attorneys, Michael T. Pfau and Jason P. Amala.

However, the archdiocese said, it had no information at the time “to indicate Courtney had a prior history of sexually abusing students. And due to the nature of the allegation, Courtney’s supervisor did not think the incident met the standard for notifying law enforcement and did not report it as abuse.”

The man also claimed the Franklin Pierce School District was at fault because it had received multiple reports that Courtney was abusing students at its elementary school but didn’t remove him or report him to law enforcement, according to the statement from his attorneys. The school district reached a $950,000 settlement in the case, the lawyers said.

Archbishop Sartain said he “deeply regrets the harm done to the victim in every case of child sexual abuse.”

To ensure that archdiocesan schools and parishes maintain the highest standards of safety, the Archdiocese of Seattle implements a robust Safe Environment Program. The program requires criminal background checks on all employees and volunteers who have unsupervised contact with children, and compliance with all applicable laws with respect to reporting allegations of sexual abuse of minors to civil authorities. All employees, volunteers and students at archdiocesan schools are trained to identify the warning signs of abuse and how to take action to prevent it.

Courtney is among more than 70 people — priests, brothers, deacons and a nun — named by the archdiocese as having been credibly accused of child sex abuse.

The archdiocese requests that anyone with knowledge of sexual abuse or misconduct by a member of the clergy, an employee or volunteer of the Archdiocese of Seattle call the archdiocesan hotline at 1-800-446-7762.