The Olentangy Local School District has agreed to pay almost $500,000 to settle three lawsuits brought by families of students who were sexually abused by a veteran second-grade teacher.
According to two separate settlement agreements released by the district last week, the district agreed to pay $360,000 to two of the families.
A third agreement, for $130,000, is pending in Delaware County Probate Court because it involves a minor, said attorney Emmanuel Olawale, who represented the students. The other two settlements, for $235,000 and $125,000, involved students who turned 18 and 19, respectively, since their cases were settled. There are no other cases pending.
The victims were among at least nine girls Matthew Rausenberg physically abused during the 2015-16 school year and years earlier. An eight-minute video of Rausenberg groping a student, found on his cellphone in March 2015, proved to a Delaware County Common Pleas Court jury that the victims were telling the truth when they testified that they were groped and assaulted by Rausenberg as their classmates at Arrowhead Elementary School worked nearby.
Rausenberg, 42, was convicted Jan. 25, 2016, on 34 counts of gross sexual imposition; four counts of kidnapping; and three counts of pandering sexually oriented materials. He is serving more than 100 years in prison with no chance of parole at the Lorain Correctional Institution. He had taught in the district for 14 years. The district denied any responsibility for his actions.
The district's insurance companies, Liberty Mutual Insurance and Netherlands Insurance, will pay the claims.
Olawale said tort-reform policy limited the awards to $250,000 apiece because there were no physical injuries.
"I got justice for them in the only way the justice system can provide," he said.
The district declined to discuss the settlement details on the advice of attorneys, but did acknowledge changes in security procedure.
"Our hope is that we continue to find ways to improve and implement best practices as we always strive to do better," said Krista Davis, director of communications.
During and after Rausenberg's trial, the victims' families repeatedly asked the district to take action to prevent similar abuse.
"Even if (district officials) might not admit to it, we were able to show that there were some lapses in monitoring Mr. Rausenberg," Olawale said.
Since the abuse case, the district has expanded the types of prohibited "boundary issues" related to students and teachers, increased the number of staff to be notified when abuse is suspected, and emphasized to staff that they must report abuse immediately. In addition, a student well-being supervisor was hired two years ago to address "nonacademic barriers to learning," and the district is seeking to fill a newly created safety and security supervisor position.
Olawale, whose child graduated from Arrowhead this year, said he hopes it is enough.
"We really had to put their feet to the fire -- past principals, counselors, teachers -- and in the process of discovery, we learned that there were some red lights that they all missed," he said. "They knew something was shady about (Rausenberg), but they probably didn't know the extent. They trusted him more than they should have."