Lawsuit settled for former Breck School student who alleged teacher molested him

  • Article by: DAVID CHANEN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: December 3, 2013 - 10:05 PM

A doctor said a science teacher, now in prison, molested him as a youth. The school has apologized.

William Allan Jacobs

Photo: , Hennepin County Sheriff

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For nearly four decades, Dr. Richard Covin never told a soul that his favorite science teacher at Breck School had repeatedly sexually molested him.

This week, he settled a lawsuit against the Golden Valley prep school and received a rare apology from officials for harm done to him and any other youth resulting from the actions of that teacher, William Jacobs, who is now in prison on unrelated sexual conduct charges.

“I can’t imagine the school ever doing again what they did in the past,” said Covin.

His suit, filed in April 2012, accused the school of fraud and concealment, saying Breck allowed Jacobs to continue teaching even after he had been confronted about abusing students. Covin, who attended Breck from 1972 to 1975, said he was 12 when Jacobs began abusing him. The abuse would continue for three years.

The suit, much to Covin’s disappointment, was dismissed after a Hennepin County district judge ruled that the statute of limitations had expired. Jeff Anderson, Covin’s attorney, said that the school arguing this as its defense of the suit poured salt in the wound, and “that he expected more from them.”

Way was cleared to refile suit

This May, the Legislature passed the Child Victims Act, which allows victims of past cases three years to file a suit. Covin refiled, and instead of the two sides again battling it out in court, they decided to go through mediation with a former state Supreme Court justice at the helm.

“Initially, they thought they had another slam dunk to get it thrown out,” Covin said.

The process scrutinized all the things Breck had already done in implementing training and protocol for handling abuse allegations and things that had failed in the past, Anderson said. “They demonstrated to us that they have a rigorous and impressive protocol,” he said.

The settlement took more than a month to complete.

A joint statement released Tuesday said the parties have come together in the settlement to acknowledge the serious harm done by sexual abuse. Both sides agreed not to discuss the monetary portion of the settlement, but Anderson said “it was a fair amount” and reflects that the school had knowledge about Jacobs’ behavior and failed to report sexual abuse to law enforcement.

“The resolution gives Richard a sense of validation and reclamation of his power,” Anderson said.

Jill Field, Breck’s director of communication, declined to respond to specific allegations made by Anderson or Covin. A letter with the joint statement was sent to students’ parents and alumni, and “we hope we closed a difficult chapter in the school’s history,” she said.

“Our policies and procedures have been vetted against best practices for schools,” she said. “They have been in place for quite some time. The school has evolved greatly from the 1970s.”

Jacobs had many victims

Jacobs, who also served as the Minneapolis park police chief from 1987 to 2001, was sentenced last year to 18 years in prison after he admitted to three counts of criminal sexual conduct and possessing child pornography. He was prosecuted after a teenager came forward in 2010 and said Jacobs had molested him for three years during camping trips and visits to Jacobs’ house and cabin.

“That teenager is the real hero,” Covin said.

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