District contacting families of former students of teacher charged with sex abuse

ANCHORAGE (KTUU) - The Mat-Su Borough School District is contacting more than 300 families whose children may have been students in a class taught by a teacher now charged with sexual abuse. Three of four reported victims were either in former 4th-grade teacher Lukis Nighswonger’s class, or of the same age, according to court documents.

The district used its Student Information System to locate the former students, and sent a letter to about 330 people, a district spokesperson said. Those families don’t include parents of the students in Nighswonger’s class this year.

[RELATED: Charges say first allegations against Wasilla teacher investigated in 2012]

Nighswonger was first arrested and charged with abusing three children. After his indictment last week, a fourth victim emerged, a boy who would have been fourth-grade-age when the alleged abuse in the new charge occurred, according to the indictment.

The letter, dated Friday, Oct. 5, is from school principal Brian Porcello. He says the arrest is a “tremendous challenge” faced by the school community. “Recent days have been difficult for many of our students, and the resiliency they have demonstrated is tremendous,” Porcello wrote.

“Our number one priority is to identify any other potential victims so they can connect directly with law enforcement and receive support,” Porcello wrote.

While Nighswonger was fired quickly after suspected abuse was reported to the principal in late September, earlier incidents that had been investigated by Wasilla Police and the Office of Children’s Services didn’t move forward, when not enough evidence was found.

[RELATED: Abuse allegations against teacher stalled in 2012, but why?]

A spokesperson for the district said she couldn’t speak to any type of disciplinary or administrative action taken against Nighswonger before the firing that was connected to an investigation by the district in January, but she did say that at the beginning of the school year, Mr. Nighswonger’s classroom was moved closer to the principal’s office over concerns of him generally following the rules.

[RELATED: Good touch, bad touch: How to talk with your child about sexual abuse]

If anyone believes they need to report information about a child that may have been a victim of Nighswonger, Porcello says to contact Wasilla Police at 907-357-7877. Any parent wanting a school district psychologist or counselor to help them have a difficult discussion about sexual abuse, the Office of Instruction can help at 907-746-9212

Nighswonger is next due in court Tuesday, Oct. 16, when he will be arraigned on the indicted charges.

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