Two Former High School Students Sue Salem-Keizer School District for Sexual Abuse

Posted on September 27, 2023

Warn Community that Perpetrator now Teaches at area Elementary School after short Suspension and while on 3-year Probation

Salem-Keizer, OR:  As students are returning to classrooms this month, a $10 million lawsuit has been filed today in Marion County, on behalf of two former McNary High School students who were sexually abused by their then choir teacher, Joshua Rist.  The complaint highlights how each girl was simultaneously groomed and abused during 2015-2020 and seeks to hold the Salem-Keizer School District accountable for their negligence in failing to protect the girls from harm.

According to the lawsuit, Rist had a history of grooming children at Hermiston High School, prior to his employment at McNary.  It also contends that another female student had complained about grooming and inappropriate behavior prior to the incidents with Jane Doe 1 and 2.

After credible complaints about Rist’s impropriety towards targeted students continued to stack up, the Salem-Keizer School District finally sent a formal Misconduct report to the Teacher Standards and Practices Commission in June 2021.  After a lengthy investigation, the Commission found that the abuses of Jane Doe 1 and Jane 2 were factual and Rist stipulated to those facts on June 8, 2023. He was put on a 60-day suspension, over the summer, and now must serve 3-years’ probation. He is still allowed to teach.

When Jane Doe 1 and 2 learned that Rist is now teaching choir at Kalapuya Elementary School in the same school district where they suffered abuse, they were traumatized all over again.

“It’s shocking how many blaring warning signs and complaints were completely ignored for years and years,” said lead attorney Emily Stebbins from The Gatti Law Firm in Salem. “It makes my head explode when institutions choose to cover up for predators over taking proper steps to protect their kids. When a school district plays kick-the-can with an abusive teacher, they need a swift culture change and some long overdue accountability.”

“The thought of Josh Rist misusing his power and violating more children keeps me up at night. This needs to end now,” said Jane Doe 1. “My heart breaks for families who unknowingly send their kids to a school where a predator is employed. How many more children need to be abused for the district to do something to ensure safety for their students?  I will never be the same again, but I also will do everything in my power to make sure this never happens to anyone else.”

“I am so disheartened by the Salem-Keizer school district’s stubborn insistence on protecting Josh Rist over the children in their schools,” said Jane Doe 2. “Their so-called ‘solution’ of moving him to an elementary school following the grooming findings has horrified me since I first heard about it. Parents need to know the kind of man who is in the classroom with their kids.  He is not safe. That’s the bottom line.”


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