Smith v. OK Boys Ranch
Case type: Government Liability, Abuse & Neglect, General Litigation
Award: Over $63 million in Settlements
Attorneys: Jack Connelly
Plaintiffs, males ages 11 to 14 at time of abuse, were residents of the Olympia Kiwanis Boys Ranch, a group home in Olympia, Washington, who suffered severe and ongoing physical, sexual and emotional abuse from counselors and OK Boys Ranch staff. Defendant DSHS became aware of severe abuse but continued to license the group home and failed to follow regulatory guidelines regarding the facility or to take any action to stop the sexual abuse from continuing. Defendant Kiwanis set up the group home and failed to properly monitor or supervise even after information became available that the staff was not properly trained and that children were being abused.
In The News
- "O.K. Boys Ranch – How a House of Horrors Stays Open"- Seattle Times
- "Olympia Kiwanis Boys Ranch draws another sex abuse lawsuit" - The News Tribune
- "State to pay $5 million to 12 abused at OK Boys Ranch" - Seattle Post Intelligencer
- "Will $17.8 million verdict change state policies?" - Seattle Times
- "Boys ranch victims to get $5.5 million - State reaches settlement with former group home residents" - Seattle Times
The abuse occurring at the OK Boys Ranch was varied and severe.
Newcomers, as well as those who broke the rules were initiated or punished in group beatings, young boys would lay awake at night expecting to be raped by the older boys and many tried, unsuccessfully, to escape. The staff did little to stop such behavior and even beat and sodomized the boys themselves. Roughly two serious incidents, which should have been reported to state authorities, occurred per week.
Over a period of 23 years, residents of the O.K. Boys Ranch experienced a shocking multitude of incidents involving abuse, neglect, sexual assault and group beatings by other boys and staff. These incidents, when documented, were routinely dismissed by DSHS, Children and Family Services and numerous review boards.
An example of one serious incident, for which complaints made by counselors were dismissed by the Children and Family Services branch of DSHS, offers insight into the shocking day to day life at the OK Boys Ranch.
“On the evening of June 14, 1992, five boys from the Ranch broke into a nearby house, stole alcohol and brought it back to their rooms. Upstairs, after drinking the booze and sharing it with two more boys, the group of seven disrobed.
The resulting "orgy," as everyone later called it, lasted through the night. Staff members, required by law and contract to provide 24-hour supervision, broke up the scene twice but didn't keep the boys separated. Sex continued until the morning.
The oldest boy was 17 (although the Boys Ranch contract allowed no residents older than 16); the two youngest were 11.”
When the OK Boys Ranch came up for license renewal in 1989, it was discovered that finances were completely unacceptable, with systematic over-billing and double-billing of state money for services that were not adequately provided and pattern of not reporting incidents of abuse, sexual assaults and beatings (by both boys and staff) to police, DSHS or the boys’ parents, as required by law. The reviewer deemed the OK Boys Ranch “NOT IN COMPLIANCE” with state regulations.
Despite the condemning audit of 1989, OK Boys Ranch remained open, given a temporary license for 6 mo. to bring the home up to state standards and repay the over-billed state money. However, the temporary license was inappropriately modified into a full license and more than $100,000 in owed funds was reduced to $6,903 and a promise to take on two extra boys at no extra charge (the latter of which did not occur).
The OK Boys Ranch was finally shut down, after numerous lawsuits over the boys abuse began.