Updated: Oct 30, 2021
Allegations and Lives in the Balance
(original article posted on the Colorado Switchblade)
Estes Park, Colorado.
On April 20, 2021, an Estes Park teacher was placed on administrative leave after three female students made allegations of inappropriate language and touching. These complaints were not handled within the context of the Restorative Practices program, nor were they managed within the school district; rather, the complaints were turned over to Title IX investigators.
The teacher found another job, in a different county, but was unable to return to a classroom until these issues were resolved; in the meantime, the three female students have continued with their educations.
On September 20th, 2021, The Colorado Switchblade published the first installment of a series entitled “Sexual Harassment at the High School,” in which we aired allegations of inappropriate language and touching by three female students, with supporting assertions by five other female students. The internal documents from the Title IX investigation came to us ‘over the transom,’ meaning they were given to us unexpectedly, and unrequested by an unknown source. The materials have been authenticated as true investigative reports.
Subsequent conversations with school personnel urged us to remove the article because, it was claimed, we had “identified the complainants.” Although we did not identify the students by name, many people within, and without, the Estes Park community already knew who the students were. There had been no attempt, on their part, to keep their assertions of harassment silent; as one student said, “We all know who the girls are because they talked about it all the time.” One person interviewed said he had heard the charge regarding a group phone text from a kitchen worker at a local Estes Park restaurant.
The allegations involved touching the waist of one student, making a group text remark on a student’s phone, touching the knee of another, placing his arm on the shoulder of third, as in a side hug. There was talk of ‘summer bikini bodies’ and language often found in popular culture. None were allegations one would expect to find in sexual harassment cases.
The teacher was not accused of lewd behavior. Given the context of his job, professional touching was to be expected. One local woman, familiar with this case, made the following comment:
“What is the difference between professional touching and intimate, sexual touching?”
In short, this Title IX investigation and the allegations were not kept secret. Indeed, EP Superintendent Sheldon Rosenkrance told a reporter on April 29th about the investigation. To fully understand the dynamics of the Complainants, the Respondent, and the Title IX investigation, we immediately removed the article pending additional study and to seek legal counsel.
A ruling was released on Friday, October 22, and Estes Park Title IX Coordinator Lazlo Hunt and Superintendent Rosenkrance chose to adopt the findings of the investigator, who admitted, in several instances, she was unable to corroborate the allegations, yet she sided with the young women. There will be no disciplinary action taken against the teacher because he no longer works for the Estes Park School District.
During The Colorado Switchblade investigation, reporters learned of the stories of other EP female students, who reported directly to administrators, incidents of sexual harassment and bullying perpetrated by other students. One female spoke of multiple incidents within the past twenty-four months, but these were neither investigated nor resolved. Frustrated, embarrassed and depressed, she attempted suicide, these issues contributing to her mental state.
Members of the Estes Park school administration have acknowledged to The Colorado Switchblade that they are aware of this young woman’s issues and complaints, but they have yet to address either her concerns or those of her parents.
Reporters from the Colorado Switchblade developed questions for the district Title IX coordinator, the high school co-principals, the school superintendent, and the Restorative Practices coordinator. All chose to refrain from comment.
Here are the eight questions for the Estes Park administrators:
Why did they choose to make this a Title IX investigation rather than managing the complaints through the Restorative Practices program?
What steps were taken to try to resolve these issues amicably and within the school?
Why doesn’t this case appear on the US Department of Education listings of open Title IX investigations?
Why didn’t the administration make efforts to mitigate the situation to keep a veteran teacher?
Given that the teacher resigned from the EP school district, why did Superintendent Rosenkrance and Title IX coordinator Hunt choose to not dismiss the formal complaints?
Why, then, have the complaints of these three students led to Title IX charges against a teacher, when more serious complaints have been swept under the rug?
Why, when Restorative Practices programs have been implemented in schools across the state specifically to resolve these types of issues, was this program not used in these situations?
How often has the Restorative Practices program been used for conflict resolution in the Estes Park schools?
School board elections will be held on Tuesday, November 2, to fill three positions. Perhaps a new board member will press for answers to these questions.