William S. Hart Union High School District officials announced Wednesday that they had reached a settlement with several former students who had been sexually assaulted by a former basketball coach.
The $4 million settlement — of which the Hart District will pay out $1 million — stems from several former Hart district students coming forward with allegations that their basketball coach, Jeremy Haggerty, had sexually assault them as far back as 2008.
Haggerty was arrested in 2018 after being accused of sexually assaulting nine victims, whose ages ranged between 14 and 17 years old, over the course of a decade. In July 2019 ,Haggerty was sentenced to serve nine years in prison after pleading no contest to six counts of a lewd act upon a child and three counts of sexual battery, all felonies.
Within a roughly a year of his plea, three of Haggerty’s victims opened a civil suit against him and his former employer, the Hart district, alleging they had suffered personal injuries and damages due to their childhood sexual abuse at the hands of their ex-coach.
In a statement released soon after Hart board President Joe Messina announced the board’s 5-0 vote to settle the three students’ case during a closed session meeting Wednesday night, district officials said they hope the resolution brings relief to the former students.
“While the individual has not worked for the district for some time and his admitted actions appear to have occurred approximately a decade ago, we hope these settlements bring our former students and their families some sense of peace in an undeniably painful situation,” read the statement. “Those entrusted to work with youth to build them academically, athletically and to invest in their character must be held to the highest standard of ethics and morality.
“The idea that an adult would shatter this trust is detestable beyond words,” district officials added.
Haggerty regularly had access to one-on-one time with all three defendants and was responsible for “wrapping” the athletes, when he would tape up ankles and other joints for support and treatment before a game or practice, according to their conjoined lawsuit.
Much of the grooming and attacks on the boys happened across multiple years within the Canyon High basketball program, the complaint stated. It adds that Haggerty also used “massages” as a way to attack the boys, touching their genitals and having sexually explicit conversations with them throughout.
“This (the wrapping would) most often occur in the coaches’ room, which was a separate room in the boys’ locker room,” read the complaint, which also adds that there was little supervision in the room and the door to the wrapping room was often closed. “On at least one occasion, (Haggerty) sexually assaulted (the victims) in the coaches’ room at Canyon High School, by touching his (genitals).”
The complaint held the district partly responsible for the three plaintiffs’ trauma and suffering, claiming that the school district and its employees were either negligent and/or complicit during Haggerty’s tenure as a coach.
“We want to assure our school community that we remain vigilant in our hiring practices and we will continue to support a climate where students are encouraged to speak up and staff is empowered to take action to ensure the safety and well-being of our students,” the statement read.