Two former Grandview High School students have filed a lawsuit against the Grandview School District, alleging that it failed to protect them against sexual harassment and gender discrimination by a teacher.
The case comes after former physical education teacher Zachary J. Sybouts pleaded guilty to having inappropriate contact with a student in January 2018.
Sybouts was sentenced to 30 days of home monitoring and a year on probation, and was required to register as a level 3 sex offender for 10 years. He was also barred from having contact with the three female students he was accused of making advances on while teaching at the high school in 2016.
In the civil lawsuit filed Aug. 15, two plaintiffs are listed as O.S. and M.R., while Grandview School District is listed as the defendant. The plaintiffs are represented by attorneys Terry Abeyta and Margaret Lund at Abeyta Nelson P.C. in Yakima.
The suit accuses the district of negligence, a violation of Title IX — which protects against gender discrimination in education — and a violation of civil rights due to the plaintiffs’ treatment by Sybouts. It also claims the district “is responsible for all wrongful conduct, acts, errors and omissions of its administration, teachers, counselors and other agents.”
The suit details Sybouts leveraging his control of the students’ grades to groom them, sending and requesting inappropriate photos, making sexual advances, asking students to meet him at hotels and asking students to have sex with him.
It claims that district officials should have been aware of Sybouts’ inappropriate behavior and failed to adequately investigate him prior to the harassment of O.S. and M.R.
Before the two plaintiffs’ harassment, it says, the district was made aware of a shirtless post he made to Craigslist seeking “‘some single ladies’ and claiming his wife had just left him, which was false.”
School staff also received reports of inappropriate communication with at least two other female students prior to the plaintiff’s harassment, it says. The staff members informed Sybouts of the allegations prior to interviewing the two students, the suit claims, after which Sybouts admitted to contacting the students about the allegations.
The suit alleges that while two students refused to share inappropriate communications with him, one student disclosed that Sybouts had coerced her into lying to school officials.
“(The) defendant did nothing about the fact that Sybouts admitted to inappropriately interfering with the investigation,” it says, adding that he was not reprimanded. “No further investigation was conducted by (the) defendant despite the seriousness of the allegations and Sybouts’ interference with the initial investigation.”
“Because of the defendant’s failure to adequately investigate the allegations against Sybouts, he continued in a position of trust and continued to victimize his female students, including O.S. and M.R.,” the suit says.
It was not until further complaints were made against Sybouts in March 2016 that a full investigation was conducted, led by police, according to the lawsuit. The suit claims that the plaintiffs suffered permanent emotional and psychological damage, including peer-to-peer bullying, after Sybouts’ actions were exposed.
It calls for damages in an amount to be proven at trial for past, present and future mental and physical pain and distress, mental health expenses, and educational and vocational impairment.
Grandview School District officials did not respond to requests for comment by press time.