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Settlement reached in lawsuit against northwest ND school district

PARSHALL, N.D.—Parshall School District has reached a settlement with a former elementary school principal, who alleged he was run out of the school for reporting a teacher and coach was sexually harassing girls, including his daughter.

According to the district's attorney, the district agreed to pay $25,000 to the daughter of former elementary school principal Lewis Reese, although the district did not admit any liability.

The suit alleges the district failed to protect Reese's daughter and other female students and investigate complaints that Kevin Turner, a former teacher and volleyball coach, made inappropriate and sexually harassing comments toward girls. Turner resigned in the spring of 2016.

Prior to Reese starting his job in 2014, the suit alleges that a complaint filed against Turner states he made inappropriate comments toward female students, including talking about students' breasts and buttocks; Turner was not disciplined.

Around December 2014, Matt Coomer, the former guidance counselor at the high school, overheard Turner ask Reese's daughter if she was a lesbian, then stated he would pay to watch her have sex with another female student. Coomer reported Turner's sexual solicitation of the girl to former superintendent John Weidner, but no report was made.

Reese made complaints about the sexual solicitation of their daughter and Turner multiple times to the district and the school board, as well as with the Mountrail County Sheriff's Department, but no formal investigation was done, the suit claims.

In early 2016, several teachers complained about how Reese disciplined students, his communication issues, professionalism and leadership. The local teachers' union also submitted a complaint against Reese to the district for allegedly creating a hostile work environment.

These complaints were a "concerted effort to retaliate against Lewis Reese for reporting Turner's sexual harassment and the sexual solicitation" of Reese's daughter, the suit claims.

Reese's attorney said the parties are satisfied with the settlement agreement.

Turner's teaching license expired in January, according to North Dakota Education Standards and Practices Board's website. However, Turner is currently under review by the board due to a criminal charge that has now been resolved through the court system.

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