Teacher sex-abuse case settled

A central Missouri school district has settled a lawsuit accusing a former high school coach of sexual misconduct.

The Warrensburg district agreed to pay six girls $809,000 to settle the three-year-old lawsuit against former high school girls basketball and softball coach Russell Hough. The money will come from its insurance company. The settlement was completed Wednesday.

“I’m so proud of these girls,” said Ronnie Podolefsky, their attorney. “They stood up in the face of silence, and spoke up for themselves.”

Hough, who also taught physical education at a Warrensburg elementary school, resigned last year as part of a deal with prosecutors to drop two felony sexual misconduct charges against him alleging he had sexual contact with two students, ages 15 and 16, on school grounds.

Hough, who has never publicly addressed the allegations against him, did not immediately respond to a phone message left at his Holden home on Friday. His attorney, Gerard Noce, did not immediately respond to a phone message left at his St. Louis office.

The girls accused Hough of touching then inappropriately, making racial remarks and exposing himself. The school district did not admit any fault, but said it settled the case to avoid further litigation.

In a written statement, Warrensburg R-VI district superintendent Deborah Orr said she hoped the community can now move forward.

“The lawsuit is over and the district can continue to focus on providing the best education possible for our students,” she said.

In their lawsuit, the former students and their parents said school officials initially dismissed their complaints and declined to investigate for more than a year, in part because of possible negative public reaction.

The plaintiffs also complained of being publicly criticized by school officials and community members after lodging their complaint. They sued after an internal inquiry cleared Hough.

The lawsuit also contended that Warrensburg school officials knowingly hired Hough in 2003 after he left the nearby Pleasant Hill district after similar allegations were made by female students. Hough previously declined to comment about those allegations.

Warrensburg is about 65 miles southeast of Kansas City.

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