By News-Register staff • 

Sex abuse victim sues Western Mennonite School

2012 photo##Matthew Yoder
2012 photo##Matthew Yoder

A former Western Mennonite student who was sexually abused by a teacher at the school in 2010 and 2011 has filed suit against the school and Pacific Northwest Mennonite Conference.

Filed in Multnomah County Circuit Court, the suit seeks $5.5 million in damages on behalf of the plaintiff identified in the complaint as M.L., now 19 years old and a Salem resident.

The suit, filed by the Portland law firm of O'Donnell Clark & Crew LLP, alleges the school hired Matthew Yoder of McMinnville as a teacher despite being aware of previous sexual abuse allegations against him and widespread concerns about Yoder's inappropriate interactions with Western Mennonite students.

"This is a story of failure after failure of this school to observe simple measures to protect kids," attorney Peter Janci said. "We intend to prove that Western Mennonite School administrators knew, prior to hiring Yoder, that he had previously been accused of sexually abusing several children."

Janci said it's also his intent to prove that even following Yoder's hiring, "there were red flags everywhere." He called it outrageous for schools to knowingly ignore risks of child abuse.

Western Mennonite Principal Paul Schultz said Tuesday he was not at the school when Yoder was employed. He had no comment on the pending litigation. 

Yoder pleaded guilty in March 2014 to three counts of second-degree sexual abuse, a Class C felony. He also agreed to a sentencing enhancement factor stating his conduct violated the public’s trust and his professional responsibility as an educator.

Five counts each of third-degree rape and third-degree sodomy, also Class C felonies, were dismissed under terms of the plea agreement negotiated between the defense and the prosecution. So was an additional count of second-degree sexual abuse.

Yamhill County Circuit Court Judge Cal Tichenor sentenced Yoder to 32 months in prison. Deputy District Attorney Lisl Miller recommended a 60-month - five years - sentence.

Yoder is serving his time at the Shutter Creek Correctional Institution in North Bend with an earliest release date of June 1, 2016.

Western Mennonite operates a residential campus on 45 acres north of West Salem in Polk County. It serves domestic and international students in grades 6-12, many from the McMinnville area.

The Pacific Northwest Mennonite Conference founded Western Mennonite School in 1945 and oversees its operations.

Yoder taught social studies at the school for four years. He also coached junior varsity baseball and basketball.

He was terminated in conjunction with his February 2012 arrest.

See Friday's print edition for additional details.



If the school knew about his previous history and hired him anyway, they should be prepared to lose in a gigantic lawsuit.
If they failed to research his previous employment, they also failed. There actions or lack thereof are egregious.

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