Families claim school district failed to investigate molester

OLYMPIA, Wash. -- Three families have filed a lawsuit against the Olympia School District, alleging district officials did not adequately investigate reports that a bus driver was molesting students.

"Families who had girls in the Olympia School District over the past 8 years should all be asking the question, what about my daughter?" said Tacoma attorney Darrell Cochran, whose firm is representing the families.

The case revolves around former bus driver Gary D. Shafer, who was convicted in 2011 of molesting three other kindergarten girls while working for the district.

Shafer is serving a 14-and-a-half year prison term.

Cochran says Shafer admitted in a deposition to abusing as many as 30 girls during his time behind the wheel. And according to Cochran, district officials concealed evidence Shafer had victimized other students.

"What's more astonishing in this case is how the district reacted, which was to hide the evidence it had of these children being abused," he said.

School district officials declined to speak on camera, but spokesperson Rebecca Japhet provided this written statement:

"The district has worked closely with law enforcement to investigate leads concerning children who may have been harmed by this driver and will continue to do so any time new information becomes available," Japhet wrote. "It is important to remember that what we are hearing here are only allegations, not facts. The district trains employees on their mandatory reporting requirements, and we take that portion of our work very seriously."

The lawsuit accuses the district of negligence. In one instance, Cochran says a fellow driver approached two supervisors to report he suspected Shafer had molested another student.

Cochran says no officials followed up, and nobody ever called the girl's mother.

"No one told her. They knew it. They concealed it," he said.

The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages for the families of the three girls named as plaintiffs.

Cochran has represented three families in prior cases concerning Shafer.

The Olympia School District settled out of court for $750,000 and $1.2 million with two of the families.

A third family won a $1.4 million jury verdict, which the district is appealing.