Oak Grove family faced retaliation after reporting coach inappropriately touched girl, lawsuit alleges

Daniel Mark Stoa was fired from Oak Grove Lutheran School and banned from the campus the day he was arrested on child porn charges.

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Oak Grove Lutheran School is seen Aug. 7, 2020, at 124 North Terrace in Fargo.
Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor

FARGO — Multiple families reported concerns about a Fargo private school coach , including one family that said he inappropriately touched their daughter, before he was arrested on child porn charges, according to a federal lawsuit.

A father and his daughter filed the federal lawsuit against Oak Grove Lutheran School on Jan. 23. The lawsuit's complaint alleges that school leaders ignored a report that then-track coach Daniel Mark Stoa, 35, inappropriately touched the girl when she was on the varsity track team.

The complaint claims the school didn’t take action to make sure the girl felt safe on campus and retaliated against the family when it didn’t allow the girl and her sister to return to the school.

Oak Grove President Bob Otterness called the claims in the lawsuit unsubstantiated. "Oak Grove will defend itself vigorously to obtain a dismissal of the claims," he said.

Along with the school and its officials, Stoa is named as one of the defendants in the lawsuit. The Forum's attempts to reach Stoa by phone were unsuccessful.


Daniel Stoa appears for sentencing in Cass County District Court on Monday, April 11, 2022.
David Samson/The Forum

The Forum, which does not typically name underage victims of alleged misconduct, is not naming the girl and her family in this case.

The girl's family reported to school officials Stoa's inappropriate behavior that occurred from 2015 to 2020, the complaint said. Stoa allegedly touched the girl’s hair and rubbed her back, according to the complaint. He also tried to contact her via Snapchat and text message, the complaint said.

The girl refused those communications and her parents told her to maintain a distance from Stoa, court documents said.

The girl's father eventually learned multiple families had filed concerns with Oak Grove regarding Stoa, the complaint said.

"Over the course of several years, multiple female Oak Grove students reported incidents of Stoa conducting himself inappropriately via social media, including contacting the students and engaging with inappropriate content on his work-related account," the complaint said.

Stoa continued to work as a coach until Feb. 12, 2021, when he was arrested on child porn charges. Court documents said Stoa had images and videos that depicted sexual abuse against children as young as 3 years old.

Stoa was fired from Oak Grove and banned from the school the day he was arrested. A statement from then-President Michael Slette said the criminal investigation into Stoa was not connected to any students.

Slette, who resigned Jan. 15, 2022, did not return a message left by The Forum seeking comment on the federal lawsuit, which names him as one of the defendants.


Stoa pleaded guilty to the child porn charges. He was sentenced to 60 days in jail, was given two years of supervised probation and was required to register as a sex offender.

Concerned parents told the North Dakota Bureau of Criminal Investigation about Stoa's alleged inappropriate actions involving Oak Grove students, the family's lawsuit said. The Cass County State’s Attorney’s Office did not file charges in connection to those parents' reports or the family's reports.

Prosecutors considered filing charges of child neglect and failure to report suspected child abuse against Oak Grove after the BCI investigated reports from other parents, according to an April 18, 2022, letter from prosecutors.

The Cass County State’s Attorney’s Office ultimately decided against the charges, saying school administration was given information regarding Stoa’s “odd behavior,” the letter said. The reports didn’t allege “sexually inappropriate acts or propositions,” according to the letter.

The family that filed the federal lawsuit said the school sent them a letter on July 19, 2021, informing them that the school was “censuring” them, according to the lawsuit's complaint. The school accused the family of “engaging in conduct that violated school policies while outside of school grounds and on personal time,” the complaint said.

“Plaintiffs were accused of wrongdoing as retaliation for plaintiff’s insistence that defendants investigate and discipline/remove defendant Stoa,” the complaint said.

The school said the girl could “re-enroll” at Oak Grove if she agreed to “specific expectations,” the complaint said. That included her having weekly meetings with school administration to “build a ‘renewed relationship/connection’ with the Oak Grove community,” according to the complaint.

The girl had no previous disciplinary actions at the school, the complaint said. She requested that she be able to return to school without having to meet with administrators, but the school refused, according to the complaint.


The girl’s sister also was not allowed to go back to the school, the complaint said.

April Baumgarten joined The Forum in February 2019 as an investigative reporter. She grew up on a ranch 10 miles southeast of Belfield, N.D., where her family raises Hereford cattle. She double majored in communications and history/political science at the University of Jamestown, N.D.
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