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Bemidji School District named as defendant in lawsuits alleging sex abuse by former teacher

BEMIDJI -- The Bemidji School District was named as the defendant in three lawsuits filed Wednesday in regard to alleged sexual abuse carried out by a former teacher.

St. Paul-based attorney Jeff Anderson filed the suits on behalf of three victims who say they were sexually abused by former teacher John Wangberg between 2008 and 2012. The lawsuits were filed in Beltrami County. Wangberg was charged in January with two counts of second-degree criminal sexual conduct and gross misdemeanor fifth-degree criminal sexual conduct.

Seven days after being arraigned on the charges in Beltrami District Court, Wangberg committed suicide, according to police.

In regard to the lawsuits, the School District emailed this statement from Superintendent James Hess to the Pioneer:

"The School District has received lawsuits involving three students and a former teacher. The District denies any liability and looks forward to presenting its case through the legally recognized process. Since we are in litigation, we cannot comment further at this time."

Anderson is the same attorney who is suing the Diocese of Crookston on behalf of a former student at St. Philip's School. That lawsuit, filed in June, alleges that administrators at the school ignored the criminal history of former priest James Porter, allowing him to carry out further abuse of children in Bemidji.

Justin Glawe
Reporting on crime, courts and Beltrami county government. Follow me on Twitter @JustinGlawe.
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