State, ex-Tacoma college teacher sued over 2011 incidents

Woman alleges instructor took advantage of her



A young Gig Harbor woman who contends her Tacoma Community College music instructor coerced her into taking off her clothes and touching herself during singing lessons has sued the state and the teacher.

The woman, identified as S.N. in the lawsuit, filed suit in Pierce County Superior Court last week.

She contends the community college failed in its duty to protect her from instructor Kevin Gausepohl, who she claims took advantage of her for his sexual gratification.

The suit, filed on her behalf by attorney Lance Hester, seeks unspecified damages, but she previously filed a $1.25 million claim against the state.

Spokesman Shawn Jennison said the college is cooperating with state officials in defending the suit but offered no specifics, citing the school’s policy on pending litigation. “The safety and well-being of all TCC students and staff is a top priority,” Jennison said.

Efforts to reach Gausepohl, who resigned his position in October 2011, were unsuccessful.

He told investigators two years ago he “vehemently” denies all of the allegations against him, college records show.

The woman was a 17-year-old high school student attending the community college as part of the Running Start program two years ago when she made her allegations against Gausepohl, according to court and college records.

He allegedly told the girl he was conducting a study on how sexual arousal affects vocal range, and she complied with some of his requests to strip or touch herself during voice lessons at the school, court records show.

Gausepohl, 38, masturbated during one session while she played piano, the woman contends.

The music instructor allegedly made similar requests of other students, who declined to participate, court records show.

“These students became concerned that defendant Gausepohl was sexually exploiting plaintiff, and they reported it to TCC authorities in the spring of 2011,” her lawsuit states.

College officials did nothing until she finally came forward, she contends.

The alleged abuse caused the woman “great alarm, surprise and emotional distress,” among other damages, the lawsuit states.

Community college officials hired an outside agency to investigate the matter in fall 2011. That agency concluded that Gausepohl, “more likely than not,” violated the college policies on sexual harassment and discrimination. He eventually was charged in Tacoma Municipal Court with seven misdemeanor counts of communicating with a minor for immoral purposes and one count of obstructing law enforcement.

Gausepohl reached a deal where prosecutors agreed not to pursue the charges if he stayed out of trouble for a year. He kept his side of the bargain, and prosecutors dismissed the case earlier this month, court records show.