Denise Keesee, Sherwood School District named in lawsuit

One of two students allegedly abused by Denise Keesee has filed a lawsuit against the former Sherwood High School teacher.

The complaint, filed June 20, came days after 38-year-old Keesee turned herself in at the Washington County Jail on six charges of second-degree sexual abuse. The suit also names the Sherwood School District as a defendant.

In the suit, the former student is described as "dyslexic" with "several learning disabilities and a low IQ," which made him vulnerable to "force, threat, duress, coercion, persuasion, or physical or emotion injury" while at school. Keesee is described as “grooming” him for a sexual relationship in a special education classroom, where initial sexual contact allegedly took place.

The suit claims authorities at Sherwood High School ignored the plaintiff's complaints and failed to report Keesee to law enforcement or Child Protective Services.

Attorney Randall Vogt is representing the plaintiff, who is now in his early 20s.

Vogt said his client did not realize his sexual relationship with Keesee in 2006 was illegal until the former student was subpoenaed and questioned before a grand jury.

“He was 15 or 16, a sophomore in high school,” Vogt said. “He didn't see it as an abusive situation. He thought it was a romance, for want of a better word.”

Vogt’s client also complained that he was harassed by Keesee’s husband, Adam Keesee, a Sherwood police officer who served as a resource officer at the school. The complaint details an incident when Adam Keesee allegedly pulled the plaintiff over and pointed a firearm at him during traffic stops — behavior Vogt refers to as “extraordinary law enforcement scrutiny.”

“When (Adam Keesee) found my client had sex with his wife, he began harassing the kid,” Vogt said. “The kid was your typical teenage boy. If you follow him around, you're going to find law violations. (Adam Keesee) over-enforced this kid's problems, and in effect drove the kid out of town.”

The suit states that the plaintiff "moved away from Sherwood because he was afraid of what Officer Keesee would do to him."

On Tuesday, the Sherwood Police Department reported Adam Keesee had been placed on leave during his wife's criminal investigation.

Denise Keesee’s arrest came after the sheriff's office launched an investigation in November 2012 into her alleged inappropriate sexual conduct with two male students. Detectives were following up on information provided by the Oregon Department of Human Services.

Keesee was placed on paid administrative leave during the investigation, and resigned from her position at the school in May.

Although there has generally been a statute of limitations imposed on former students older than 20 seeking to sue a school district for sexual abuse by a teacher, the plaintiff has been able to pursue litigation thanks to a state Supreme Court ruling in March that extended the age limit for former students who only later became aware that abuse had occurred.

Vogt’s client is seeking $5.1 million in damages.

“The essence of a sexual abuse case is not necessarily the sexual contact itself, but it's rather a violation of trust,” Vogt said. “If a 15-year-old boy has sexual contact with a 15-year-old girl, the psychological damage is probably going to be zero. But with a 30-year-old teacher, it can be considerable because it upsets the boy's view of himself and upsets his view of his place in society, his level of trust in people of authority.”

Contract Publishing

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