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Bemidji School District Named in Three Sexual Abuse Lawsuits - Valley News Live - KVLY/KXJB - Fargo/Grand Forks

Bemidji School District Named in Three Sexual Abuse Lawsuits

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(Bemidji, M.N.) Three lawsuits were filed Wednesday in Beltrami County naming the Bemidji School District, ISD 31 as the defendant in cases involving the sexual abuse of three young students at Central Elementary School.

The lawsuits allege former physical education teacher and hockey coach, John Wangberg, sexually abused students in his gym office on Bemidji School District property. In addition, the lawsuits claim the school district was negligent in allowing Wangberg unsupervised access to students, even after they had been warned of his dangerous and exploitive propensities.

"Clearly, it is a tragedy when innocent children are harmed because the adults to whom their safety was entrusted failed to keep them safe.  The families of these children want kids to be safer in their community and their schools," said Jeff Anderson, the attorney representing the Plaintiffs. "Today, they stand together demanding the action that should've been taken years ago to better protect children," Anderson added.

In 2008 the mother of one of the child victims reported Wangberg had inappropriate conduct with her child, to the principal of Central Elementary and no investigation or action was taken.

After a second report that Wangberg was acting inappropriately with children was received by a teacher at the school in 2009-2010, Wangberg was still allowed to remain a teacher and have unsupervised contact with children.

Another allegation of inappropriate conduct was reported in 2011 and in December 2012, a report was made to law enforcement. Valley News Live began to investigate John Wangberg, and the Bemidji Public Schools after a concerned parent contacted the television station. The first story about the allegations aired on November 29, 2012. Valley News Live continued to follow the story through December and January when Wangberg was arrested.

In January of 2013, Wangberg was criminally charged with two felony counts of second degree sexual conduct and a gross misdemeanor charge of fifth degree non-consensual sexual conduct.

Wangberg, who taught in the Bemidji School District since the early 1980s, resigned his position on March 16, 2011 and on January 30, 2013, Wangberg took his own life.

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