Claims seek total of $50M in lawsuit against Kennewick High School

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Two more former Kennewick High School students filed claims totaling $10 million Wednesday saying the Kennewick School District failed to protect them from a former teacher and coach who molested them.

There are now 10 claims against the district seeking a combined $50 million. Longtime teacher William Pickerel was convicted in 2008 of sex crimes against young boys who were Kennewick students.

School officials have declined to talk about any pending litigation.

All of the claims have been filed by Tamaki Law in Kennewick. The district has 60 days to respond to each claim. If there is no response or the district rejects a claim, the former students can file a lawsuit.

Attorney Jeff Kreutz of Tamaki Law said the district has yet to respond to any of the claims.

“We continue to investigate additional claims that come forward, but do not have any additional imminent filings,” he said.

Pickerel, 78, was convicted in King County of molesting five Tri-City students that he took on sports outings to Seattle. He was recently released from prison for good behavior after serving 51/2 years of a 10-year sentence and is living in Seattle as a registered Level 3 sex offender.

He admitted to police he molested numerous other boys through the years but more charges weren’t filed because either the boys weren’t identified or the statute of limitations expired, prosecutors said.

One of the new claims stems from the early 1980s when Pickerel was a full-time teacher and wrestling coach at Kennewick High. That former student said Pickerel sexually assaulted him at the school, making him the fourth to claim abuse happening on school property.

The other new claim involves a former student who attended Kennewick High from 2005-09, when Pickerel was a substitute teacher. The former student said he was abused on sports outings with Pickerel.

That student was at the school during the three-month window in mid-2007 when, public records show, district administrators were aware Pickerel was under investigation for sex crimes against minors. Police asked school officials not to pull Pickerel from the classroom while they were investigating.

However, Kreutz said no abuse is known to have happened to that teen during that time.