The Native American Youth and Family Center faces a $750,000 lawsuit alleging it failed to protect a student from multiple sexual assaults.
The plaintiff, a 29-year-old Native American woman whose name WW is withholding because she was the victim of alleged sexual violence, was in foster care and at 17 began attending the alternative high school then called the NAYA Early College Academy, according to the lawsuit filed today today in Multnomah County Circuit Court.
The lawsuit says she was repeatedly grabbed and fondled by a custodial worker named Mark Laverdure.
Laverdure pleaded no contest to other sexual assault charges last year— involving other victims, not this plaintiff—and is now serving prison time.
The plaintiff alleges that in the fall of 2007 when she left class one day to use the bathroom, Laverdure pretended to fall on her and proceeded to fondle her.
According to the lawsuit, she reported the assault to Tawna Sanchez, who was and is an employee of NAYA and is also now a state representative. Sanchez did not respond to an email and text seeking comment.
Laverdure allegedly assaulted the girl at least twice more after she reported it, and she also says she "witnessed Laverdure engaging in similar sexual abuse toward other minor female students" at the school.
(Laverdure's father is an elder and a donor to NAYA, the lawsuit alleges. "His appearance of authority to minors was heightened because he is the son of an Elder," the suit states.)
The girl allegedly reported the abuse again—to another NAYA employee.
Laverdure continued to be employed through at least 2014. He was indicted in 2017 on charges of sexually abusing five teenage girls, and pleaded no contest to 18 counts of sexual abuse.
The lawsuit says NAYA "acted with malice or a reckless and outrageous indifference to a highly unreasonable risk of harm and with a conscious indifference to the health, safety, and welfare of" the girl.
The suit seeks $750,000 in non-economic damages and reserves the right to add punitive damages in the future.
The lawsuit argues that NAYA failed to investigate and failed its responsibility to children in its care by not terminating Laverdure. It also states that NAYA failed to report "suspected child abuse" to the Oregon Department of Human Services or law enforcement.
NAYA spokeswoman Nicole Adams declined to comment: "We can't comment on litigation."