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Crime & Courts

Family sues Kodiak school district after former wrestling coach charged with sexual abuse

A Kodiak family is suing the school district after a former wrestling coach was arrested on allegations that he sexually abused one of the students he coached last summer.

In a civil lawsuit filed March 10 by the parents of the victim, the family said the district put students at risk by not properly vetting 46-year-old Nathan Benton before he was hired and did not respond to complaints about his behavior.

Benton was assistant wrestling coach at Kodiak High School from 2016 until 2019 and at Kodiak Middle School during 2020, said Superintendent Larry LeDoux by email Friday. Benton resigned in September, LeDoux said.

Benton was arrested on four charges of sexual abuse of a minor on February 17.

In the civil lawsuit, the family said Benton used his position as an assistant coach and an authority figure to “to perpetrate exploitation, sexual abuse and sexual assault upon minor Mary Doe.”

“During Benton’s tenure as a wrestling coach, KIBSD received reports of his inappropriate interaction with students, including grooming behavior and exploitative contact with minors, and KIBSD failed to take appropriate steps to respond to those reports,” the civil complaint said.

LeDoux refuted the claim by email Friday, and said that the district was not aware of any complaints about Benton prior to the lawsuit. He did not answer questions about what the district’s policy is regarding complaints about staff members or if the district had launched an internal investigation into Benton’s actions after the criminal charges were filed.

In the civil lawsuit, the family said Benton would have been disqualified for employment with the district if a background check had been completed, but that the district never completed a background check on the former coach. The complaint does not specify why Benton would have been ineligible. Court records show he was convicted of fourth-degree misconduct involving a controlled substance in 2000.

LeDoux said he could not answer questions about the allegation because of pending litigation.

Benton is also facing a misdemeanor charge for violating the conditions of his release after he was released from custody on bail.

The family is seeking financial and other relief which would be decided by a jury, the civil complaint said.