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Sexual assault victim files suit against BSSD

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BIG SKY – In 2015, Cyle Kokot, former Ophir Middle School and Lone Peak High School girls’ basketball coach, was sentenced to 15 years in Montana State Prison followed by 10 years probation for a felony count sexual assault.

Gallatin County District Court Judge John Brown found Kokot had used his position of power to coerce and manipulate an underage player for sex, enacting a psychological toll on the girl and her family.

On March 7 of this year, an unnamed plaintiff filed a lawsuit in district court against the Big Sky School District, along with LPHS, Ophir Middle School and Kokot, according to court documents obtained by EBS. The suit alleges Kokot also sexually assaulted her and that the school district was aware he was engaging inappropriately with multiple players.

Such “inappropriate closeness,” as listed by the suit, include mandatory one-on-one practice sessions (with threats of demotion or benching players, thus jeopardizing collegiate aspirations and scholarships, as a means of enforcement) and communications via cell phone and email without parental knowledge.  

The plaintiff was unable to seek help, as the suit alleges that Kokot threatened physical violence and suicide in order to maintain compliance.

The suit also alleges the Big Sky School District was complacent not only in their hiring and vetting processes, but also in properly training school staff, “regarding how to maintain appropriate boundaries with students, how to recognize grooming behaviors and sexual abuse, or mandatory abuse reporting requirements,” according to the documents.

“I interviewed the people that did the training, and I felt they did a good job,” Dave Dalthorp, the district’s attorney, told EBS in a March 19 phone interview.

According to the suit, the plaintiff is seeking damages along with a letter of apology to the plaintiff and any other unknown victims, stating school district responsibility for the abuse, to be published annually in a local newspaper and year round on the BSSD website for a period of five years.

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