Wasilla teacher who sexually abused students sentenced to 46 years

Iditarod Elementary School (Courtesy of Mat-Su School District)

A former Wasilla teacher who admitted to sexually abusing 11 children has been sentenced to more than four decades behind bars.

Lukis Nighswonger, 40, taught third and fourth grade and was an athletics coach at Iditarod Elementary School. He received the BP Teacher of Excellence award in 2015.

One family’s report that Nighswonger had inappropriately touched their child led to an investigation and, eventually, 10 other victims.

A lawsuit that is still playing out in court alleges school officials and the Matanuska-Susitna Borough School District failed to protect students after earlier reports of Nighswonger’s inappropriate touching.

Police arrested Nighswonger in 2018. In 2022, he pleaded guilty to criminal counts of first- and second-degree sexual abuse of a minor, attempted sexual abuse and harrassment.

A judge on Monday sentenced Nighswonger to 46 years in prison, with another 40 years of suspended time, according to the state Department of Law.

The lawsuit against Nighswonger, school officials and the school district is set to go to trial in mid-June. Of the 11 victims listed in the civil suit, it appears the families of eight have reached settlements with the school district, a teacher and a principal.

a portrait of a man outside

Casey Grove is host of Alaska News Nightly, a general assignment reporter and an editor at Alaska Public Media. Reach him atcgrove@alaskapublic.org. Read more about Caseyhere

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