OTTAWA HILLS, Ohio — Victims of former Ottawa Hills Schools employee and convicted sexual abuser Ronald "Donnie" Stevens now are asking a court for $100 million in a lawsuit against the school district, school board and 18 individual plaintiffs that was expanded with a new filing this week.
In late 2021, three victims and their parents sued Ottawa Hills Local Schools over the district's handling of the case. The lawsuit, filed in Lucas County Common Pleas Court, aimed to hold the district accountable for its "policies, procedures, actions and inactions" that victims say enabled the abuse.
"When will it be that these organizations, these districts, these teams open their eyes and look at what's going on right underneath their nose?" James Harrington, a lawyer representing one of the victims, said in court Tuesday.
"We will fight this case until there is no fight left on the other side. We will never back down," Harrington said.
The initial lawsuit named the school district, the Ottawa Hills school board, Stevens and his wife, Kristie Stevens, as defendants. The original filing also did not ask for a specific monetary judgment.
The newly amended case asks for $100 million and names an additional 17 defendants, including the then-superintendent, Kevin Miller, and the current superintendent, Adam Fineske.
Other newly added defendants include district administrators and teachers:
- Darcy Browne, guidance counselor, assistant principal and Title IX coordinator
- Jackie Patterson, vice principal
- Benjamin McMurray, principal
- Nicole Silvers, teacher
- James Kincaid, teacher
- Kristin Johnson, teacher
- Kay Cocke, teacher
- Gerry Davis, teacher
- Elizabeth Puskala, teacher
- Julie Visser, teacher
- Darrin Broadway, teacher
- Noreen Hanlon, teacher
- Abigail DeWire, teacher
- Lauren Hurst, teacher
A judge sentenced Stevens to a combined life sentence with a minimum sentence of 101 years after a jury found him guilty of more than 30 charges, including multiple counts of rape.
Prosecutors said the crimes occurred between August 2017 and November 2019 and involved at least six teenage boys. Most were Ottawa Hills students at the time, and all of the alleged victims were friends of Stevens' son, who would reportedly go over to his home for sleepovers.
In response to the amended lawsuit, officials at Ottawa Hills Schools released a written statement Tuesday. It said, in part, "The matter is in litigation and therefore neither the administration, nor the Board, nor any individual Board members or employees are at liberty to speak about the specifics of the claims.
"The Board and the administration reiterate, however, that all those in authority at Ottawa Hills Local School District were shocked, surprised, outraged, and saddened when made aware through Mr. Stevens' arrest and prosecution of his secret and hidden criminal behavior. Mr. Stevens bears full responsibility for the criminal acts for which he has been convicted and sentenced."
The original lawsuit accused school leaders of failing to contact the abused students, and even rejecting repeated requests to meet. It goes on to accuse the district of being "deliberately indifferent" to the abuse in various respects including, in part:
- Failing to take appropriate remedial action following the prior sexual abuse by another member of the janitorial staff;
- Failing to conduct an appropriate investigation of prior complaints pertaining to Ronald Stevens
- Permitting Ronald Stevens to have his office windows blacked out, in spite of concerns voiced by other employees;
- Dismissing one plaintiff's concerns and responding that the district "has too much on its plate to deal with this."
Plaintiffs claim that both the actions and inaction of the Ottawa Hills school district led to further abuse, which resulted in one person attempting suicide. The lawsuit goes on to say that as a result, this person suffered physical, mental and emotional injury, leading them to incur medical bills and future counseling expenses as a result of the "severe trauma."
The amended lawsuit comes weeks after the district began proceedings to fire Stevens' wife, Kristie Stevens, from Ottawa Hills Schools.
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