Catlin Gabel alum sues for $4.5M over sex abuse claims

Education

Kim Wilson said she was abused 80 times during 1994-95 school year

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — A former Catlin Gabel student is suing the Portland private school for $4.5 million over her claims she was abused by a teacher more than 80 times during the 1994-95 school year.

Kim Wilson announced the lawsuit during a press conference Monday morning. “For those who suffered at the hands of Catlin, I urge you to step forward knowing that you are now heard and your voice is important,” she said.

“She was molested by Shoemaker over 80 times in the math classroom,” attorney Gilion Dumas said. “She sat on his lap and he rubbed his hand on her skin under her clothing.”

Catlin Gabel teacher Richardson Shoemaker in an undated yearbook photo (Courtesy to KOIN)

“I was very innocent and very vulnerable,” Wilson said. “We were new to Portland at that time.”

In December 2019, the Catlin Gabel board of trustees released an explosive 16-page report detailing 40 years of sexual misconduct at the non-profit, private school.

The report, carried out by independent investigator Lori Watson, lists allegations of sexual abuse against students by 9 former teachers and staff members, 6 of whom are named. It also details dozens of additional allegations of misconduct.

The six named teachers are accused of inappropriately touching and groping students as young as elementary school. Others are accused of having sex with students, one of whom was in middle school at the time.

The exact number of victims, many now in their 50s and 60s, may never be known.

In a statement released at her press conference, Wilson said that as “a devoted member of the Portland community, as a mother of a sixth grader, as a victim of the abuse at Catlin, I encourage my fellow alumni and the Portland community as a whole to stand behind the brave victims that step forward.”

Kim Wilson sued Catlin Gabel school over claims she was sexually abused during the 1994-95 academic year more than 80 times, January 13, 2020 (KOIN)

She decided to go public with her allegations after feeling “quieted and devalued by the school for many years,” and hopes her public declaration will “allow other victims and witnesses to feel empowered and find strength in knowing you no longer have to feel alone.”

“The conduct that has been going at at Catlin Gabel since the ’60s is just shocking,” Dumas said. “Ms. Wilson is the first person to file a civil lawsuit against the school but I don’t believe she will be the last.”

The lawsuit

Kim Wilson in a 6th-grade Catlin Gabel photo during the 1994-95 school year, released January 13, 2020 (Kim Wilson)

Richardson Shoemaker was Kim Wilson’s 6th-grade math teacher and one of 21 former teachers included in the Catlin Gabel report released in December 2019. “Shoe,” as he was known, “was one of six men identified by name and with detailed allegations of his sexual molestation of minors,” Wilson’s lawyer Gillion Dumas said in a statement.

The lawsuit alleges Catlin Gabel was negligent and fraudulent and knew Shoemaker had previously molested girls before the 1994-95 school year. The lawsuit also claims the school is liable because Shoemaker was a teacher there.

Shoemaker, who died in 2018, was never criminally prosecuted.

KOIN 6 News reached out to Shoemaker’s family for comment and has not yet heard back.

Catlin Gabel statement

We take these allegations very seriously. In October 2018, Catlin Gabel’s Board of Trustees became aware of alumni reports on social media of sexual misconduct by a former faculty member. The board responded by hiring independent investigator Lori Watson of Watson Law Workplace Investigations, LLC to formally engage in a broad inquiry of any educator sexual misconduct at any time at Catlin Gabel. Her key factual findings were made public on December 11, 2019.

We apologize to any students who were subjected to sexual misconduct and abuse when they attended Catlin Gabel, and deeply regret their suffering. The school is committed to truth, transparency, and accountability as we support our survivors. We want to hear from our survivors and to establish a meaningful dialogue with each one who reaches out.

Current student safety is our highest priority. Our policies and procedures are peer-referenced and follow association recommendations. They are rigorous and updated continuously to improve safety and security for our students.

Due to the pending litigation, we cannot comment further.

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