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December trial date set for Bellingham assistant principals

3 administrators accused of failure to report sexual assault

From left
From left
By Ralph Schwartz Local Government Reporter

A date has been set for the trial of three Bellingham school administrators charged with failing to report the sexual assault of one of their students.

Jury selection begins Dec. 11 in the trial of the assistant principals: Jeremy Louzao and Meghan Dunham of Squalicum High School, and Chimere Hackney of Bellingham High School. All three were cited in December 2022 in a case involving a former Squalicum female student who reported unwanted sexual contact to the three administrators in early 2022.

A status hearing will be held Dec. 7, when Whatcom District Court Commissioner Tony Parise will check in with prosecution and defense attorneys, to make sure they are ready for trial.

The defendants are charged with failure to report abuse, a gross misdemeanor when the defendant is a mandatory reporter, such as a school official. The maximum sentence for the crime is 364 days in jail and a $5,000 fine. All three have entered not-guilty pleas.

The December trial and hearing dates were confirmed in emails from prosecutor Dona Bracke and defense attorney Michael Brodsky.

Both sides had expected the trial to begin sometime this summer, but Bracke requested a July trial date be moved to late August, due to personal health reasons.

Then defense attorneys on Aug. 25 requested another postponement, saying they did not have time to review a new, 67-page report from the Bellingham police detective who had taken over the case. The original detective, Adam “Bo” McGinty, was fired in August for allegedly abusing his dry cleaning privileges, according to a police statement.

The male student accused in the case was initially charged with indecent liberties, a felony, but pleaded guilty in juvenile court in May to two misdemeanor counts of assault with sexual motivation.

The female student has sued Bellingham Public Schools in federal court, claiming emotional distress and a violation of her civil rights. The suit also alleges the school district had failed to ensure that employees had adequate training on the duty to report sexual abuse.

The school district has supported the three principals and is paying for their legal defense. 

“We believe they acted in good faith and did not violate any reporting obligations,” an Aug. 18 newsletter to Squalicum parents read.

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