Former Iditarod Elementary School Teacher Accused of Sexually Abusing 8 Students
Another four victims have come forward with allegations of sexual abuse by former Iditarod Elementary School teacher Lukis Nighswonger. A total of eight victims have now come forward to accuse 36-year-old Nighswonger of inappropriate touching and sexual assault.
According to an article by the Anchorage Daily News, several of these victims complained about Nighswonger’s behavior to Wasilla police and school officials several years before he was arrested. The oldest allegations date back to 2002 while the most recent ones occurred near the time he was arrested, in September 2018.
Nighswonger was a teacher at Iditarod Elementary since 2005 before being fired in September, when he was charged with five counts of sexual abuse of a minor.
Last week, a grand jury in Palmer handed down an indictment which added 14 counts related to these new victims. Nighswonger pleaded not guilty to the new charges in a Palmer Superior Court hearing on Monday and previously pleaded not guilty to the initial charges last year.
During that same hearing on Monday, Palmer Superior court Judge Jonathan Woodman raised Nighswonger’s bail from $100,000 to $500,000 cash performance and $500,000 appearance. Prosecutors were concerned that Nighswonger is a risk to the public and a flight risk as well.
The victims listed in the indictment include:
- A fourth-grade student in 2014
- A 9-year-old student in 2008
- An older girl in 2013-14
- A child in 2015-16
- A student who was 10 when the abuse began in 2014-15 and continued until 2018
- A student who was about 15 when sexual contact began
- A student who was about 10 when Nighswonger attempted to make sexual contact in 2017-18
- A victim of an uncertain age when sexual contact happened in 2002
Prosecutors say that all of the abuse and assaults happened in classrooms at Iditarod Elementary.
Legal Recourse for Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse in Schools
After several years as a sex crimes prosecutor, attorney contributor Brian Kent of AbuseGuardian.com now represents survivors of sexual violence in civil lawsuits. Here is some information from Brian on the legal options of school abuse survivors and their families:
Sexual abuse has become a major problem in our nation’s schools. According to a report by the American Association of University Women, 1 in 10 children are sexually abused between kindergarten and the 12th grade. Sexual predators often seek out positions in education and other fields that involve working with kids. This means that our schools must be extremely diligent in making sure that their students are safe from the threat of sexual abuse.
In some cases of sexual abuse involving school employees, the school district is partially to blame for failing to prevent the abuse through negligence. For example, a school might be considered negligent for failing to run a background check and then hiring an employee with a history of sexual misconduct or for failing to report suspected abuse to the authorities. Cases of negligence may result in liability for the school if the victims and their families decide to file a lawsuit.
If you believe your child has been abused by a school employee, your first step should be contacting the police. Additionally, your family has options for justice through the civil court system. To learn more about your legal options, get in touch with one of our experienced sex abuse survivors lawyers for a free consultation.