MILES CITY – School officials in Miles City were unaware their former longtime trainer was sexually abusing dozens of male athletes during training sessions decades ago, the district’s attorneys argued in court documents filed Friday.
James Jensen was working as a volunteer for stipend pay in the late 1990s and went to great lengths to hide his abuse, avoiding children of faculty, administrators and people he didn’t know as targets, for fear he would be caught, the attorneys maintained.
This latest filing was in response to depositions in March filed by attorneys representing 32 victims who have stated in depositions that they told teachers and coaches of the abuse, but no one from the district, including coaches, teachers or administrators, confronted Jensen or tried to stop him.
In new documents, attorneys for the school district said there are incomplete testimonies and unsupported recollections from victims.
Jensen, 79, pleaded guilty in March to federal charges of coercing or enticing dozens of male athletes into sexual activity through a system called “The Program,” which were sexual massages and rubdowns that he claimed would enhance physical performance.
Documents said Jensen has admitted to authorities that he deceived the school district in his actions and those student-athletes who participated in “The Program” involved a particular group of friends in the mid-1990s.
Miles City Unified School District attorneys said in the filing three of the nine plaintiffs deposed testified that they were tasked with recruiting other students. Those victims testified that they were told to keep quiet when talking about the program and not to discuss at school or in public.
Attorneys also said former Miles City administrators testified that they wished Jensen would have been more honest and didn’t lie when he was talked to about complaints regarding his behavior with students.
He also faces criminal charges in state court for allegedly possessing child pornography.
In response to the district’s filing, an attorney representing the victims, Bryant Martin, said that the claims are “disgusting.”
“The school claims that a student who told coaches about being abused by Jensen doesn’t count, because he only recalls the content of three specific conversations with his coaches, and not the details of all 12 of those conversations. The school is simply making excuses, and blaming victims; and it’s disgusting,” he said.
“The school is claiming that they knew nothing about Jensen’s activities, and even if they did, the school does not have a duty to protect kids from sexual abuse by school employees; even when the sexual abuse occurs on school grounds,” Martin added.
-Reported by Andrea Lutz and Erik Olson/MTN News