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State Appeal Board approves settlement over teens’ transfer after Toledo home closed

DES MOINES — Two young women who sued the State of Iowa for sending them to a juvenile detention facility in Wisconsin where they were allegedly mistreated will each be paid a $350,000 settlement.

State Solicitor General Jeffrey Thompson recommended that the state Appeal Board approve the payments. “In the end, you know, we had four different lawsuits here, so I think it’s a reasonable result,” Thompson said.

The board approved the payments to the two women yesterday.

In early 2014, Governor Branstad closed the state-run facility in Toledo for troubled girls declared delinquents by a judge. The two women — who were teenagers at the time — were transferred to a home in Wisconsin. The women say they were placed in isolation rooms for weeks at a time and they accused staff at the Wisconsin facility of abuse. The lawsuits which have been settled accused Iowa officials of failing to properly review the home before sending them to Wisconsin and for failing to monitor their time there.

“There were significant problems with the way the girls were treated,” Thompson said. “They’re both back in Iowa and are also moving on with their lives.”

The Des Moines Register has reported the State of Wisconsin last year agreed to pay the two women nearly $4 million to settle lawsuits filed by the two women.

In other action yesterday, the Appeal Board approved paying the family of a 21-year-old college student from Marion after a jury found Iowa State University was partially at fault for Dane Schussler’s suicide.

“It was our determination that it was in the state’s best interest not to pursue an appeal,” said Thompson, who works in the Iowa Attorney General’s office. “It was a jury trial. It was a close call.”

Schussler died in November of 2015, nearly six weeks after first going to Iowa State University’s Student Counseling Service for help. He met five more times for counseling sessions with an unlicensed graduate student seeking a PhD in psychology. A jury ruled ISU was 50% responsible for Schussler’s suicide and awarded Schussler’s parents $315,000. Thompson said the jury was effectively presented with a malpractice case.

“Frankly a jury working really hard through really, really, really hard difficult facts,” Thompson said, “so we respect that result and decided it would be best to pay the verdict and move on.”



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