Bozeman, Montana– Lawyers for Isabella Butler, a former standout basketball player at Lone Peak High School in Big Sky, Montana who was repeatedly sexually assaulted by her basketball coach in 2013 and 2014, announce that Ms. Butler has reached a $1,490,000.00 settlement with the Big Sky School District No. 72 resolving her claims against the District and its employees. In addition to the cash payment, which will be paid by the District’s insurers, the District also agreed to conduct annual trainings for its employees and students on identifying, reporting and investigating inappropriate relationships between students and staff.
In March 2019, the Bozeman based firm Goetz, Baldwin & Geddes, P.C., filed a lawsuit on Ms. Butler’s behalf against the District and its former Lone Peak High School girls basketball coach, Cyle Kokot. The lawsuit alleged the District negligently hired, trained, supervised and retained Mr. Kokot, who is now serving a 25-year sentence in Montana State Prison because of the abuse he inflicted upon Ms. Butler. The lawsuit also alleged the District, while entrusted with ensuring Ms. Butler’s safety, failed to implement and follow standard policies and practices for providing a safe environment for its students. The lawsuit alleged several instances where female teachers and coaches at Lone Peak High School notified school officials of Mr. Kokot’s inappropriate behaviors with female student athletes, but no action was taken by the District’s administrators.
Devlan Geddes, Ms. Butler’s lead attorney with the Goetz law firm said, “This settlement recognizes the importance of school districts implementing clear and understandable policies for reporting and investigating suspected abuse and training their staff, administrators and students on how to identify abuse. School employees should not be afraid to speak up and, when they do, they should be believed. One accusation should be enough to initiate a prompt, exhaustive and conclusive investigation. In my opinion, the District’s failure to adequately supervise its basketball coach and investigate suspicions raised by its female staff members was inexcusable. Ms.Butler’s abuse should have been prevented.”
Geddes further stated, “It is common for victims of child sex abuse to delay disclosing their trauma, if they ever do. Child victims often feel responsible for what is happening to them and defend their abusers. Even later, as adults, survivors of abuse fear disclosing their experiences because they are frequently discredited and blamed for their own victimization by people who want to avoid accountability. We honor Ms. Butler’s courage facing these challenges and hope her vulnerability inspires others to share their stories.”
If you have been sexually harassed or assaulted and need someone to talk to, please contact the following: National Sex Assault Hotline: (800) 656-4673