Robert L. Elliott
Student Gets $535,000 Settlement
The agreement was reached late Monday to settle a lawsuit that was scheduled for trial Tuesday morning before Federal Judge John Reynolds.
The suit was filed last year by the student, a 1991 graduate of Wauwatosa East. She had earlier made a $50,000 claim against the district that was rejected by school officials.
As the result of his two-year relationship with the student, the teacher, Andrew Herriges, was convicted in Milwaukee County Circuit Court for having sex with a child older than 16. He was sentenced in February to nine months in the House of Correction.
The federal lawsuit alleged that two counselors and at least a half-dozen teachers knew about the affair between Herriges and the girl but did nothing about it, according to Robert Elliott, the attorney for the girl.
In a deposition last year, Rachel D. Boechler, a former guidance counselor at Wauwatosa East, testified that the girl told her about the affair. Boechler said she didn't reveal it to school authorities because she felt she had to respect the student's confidentiality.
The girl told law enforcement authorities that the affair began in 1989, when she was 16, and that the two had sex in Herriges' classroom, in the school auditorium and in locations away from the school. She became pregnant as a result of the affair and had an abortion, which Herriges paid for, in July 1991.
Herriges, 33, had a reputation as an outstanding English teacher, according to testimony in the criminal trial. He resigned from his teaching job in March 1991, has voluntarily and permanently surrendered his teaching license and is now employed as a machinist.
Case Called Outrageous
Elliott, who has represented many clients in sexual abuse cases, said he found this case particularly outrageous. He said that the Wauwatosa district still had no policy on sex or romantic relationships between faculty and students.
Chris Cowles, and attorney representing the school district, said the settlement by the insurance carriers did not include any admission of wrongdoing by the district or its employees.
Cowles acknowledged that the district had no written policy on faculty-student romance, but said, "Until this case arose, the school district never dreamed that a policy on something so obvious needed to be stated. "
"The school's policy is to follow the law, and certainly Andrew Herriges' conduct did not do that", Cowles said.
Copyright 2000 © Robert L. Elliott. All Rights Reserved