Washington Woman abused by school band teacher gets $2m settlement 30 years later

A woman who sued a school teacher for sexual abuse over 30 years ago finally wins a $2 million settlement. 

  • A Washington woman who was sexually abused by a school teacher over 30 years ago finally got a $2 million settlement. 
  • At the time of the abuse, the woman was a 17-year-old high school junior.
  • She hopes that this settlement will encourage other victims of abuse to come forward. 

After more than 30 years, Maria Joyner, who was a music teacher herself but has given up her passion due to the trauma, had finally received the justice she needed when she was only 17.

In 1989 in Aberdeen, Maria Joyner was a high school junior who was repeatedly abused by her school’s band teacher Michael Alstad. Reportedly, the sexual abuse lasted until Joyner left for college. According to Darrell Cochran, one of the woman’s attorneys, the settlement, which comes three decades later, will be paid by the district’s insurance.

In a recent interview with The Associated Press, she said:

“Music was so important to me and something I saw in my future. But having something so traumatic happen to me from a mentor in the field greatly affected my ability to teach in the classroom. Being around 16-year-old girls and seeing how vulnerable and young they are brought back such memories.”

The victim believes that this settlement will empower others struggling with abuse to come forward.

As per Joyner’s lawsuit, Alstad, who was in his early 30s back in 1989, had previously abused a student in another school district. What is more, he had threatened Maria’s life to keep the abuse going. However, the 63-year-old band teacher denied being involved with another junior apart from Maria.

Michael Alstad, who taught and directed Washington bands for years, has recently led a community band in Saskatchewan, Canada. In an official statement provided by his lawyer, David Marshall, Alstad declared:

“When I was a young high school teacher, I made a serious mistake. I deeply regret it. I hope this settlement will help Ms. Joyner.”

It was recently revealed that the Aberdeen School District did not learn of the abuse until 2018.

In an e-mail report, attorney Brent Beecher stated:

“The district was saddened and dismayed to learn of what had happened three decades ago, and took its responsibility to compensate the student very seriously.”

After leaving for college, Joyner pursued a musical career. She has earned music degrees from the University of Washington and was teaching community college jazz classes. What is more, she used to perform with the Seattle Women’s Jazz Orchestra.

Unfortunately, her high school traumatic experience caused her to give up on her career, as it brought her too much anxiety. Struggling to cope with the suffocating memories of her abuse, in 2015, after eight years of teaching, she decided to quit. The former music teacher shares:

“When you go into the band room, you go into the place where the abuse happened.”

In 1992, after Joyner left for college, Alstad moved from Aberdeen to Saskatchewan, where he led the North Battleford City Kinsmen Band until 1999. However, he later returned to Washington and resumed teaching band at Port Townsend High School.

When Maria found out that her abuser has returned, she filed a complaint with the state Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction. Following her complaint, in 2006, Alstad voluntarily surrendered his teaching certificate. He was later hired as a director of Seattle’s Around The Sound Community Band, which includes both adults and high school students. Besides, he was an executive director of the Music Center of the Northwest, a nonprofit music school based in Seattle.

In 2018, the year when the Aberdeen School District found out about his sexual abuse record, Alstad returned to his former job in Saskatchewan.

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