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Pattern of negligence? More parents accuse Cherry Creek School District of failing to protect victims

Parents: Assault, harassment victims revictimized
Cherry Creek Schools boosted teacher pay this year
Posted at 5:20 PM, Apr 25, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-25 20:29:51-04

AURORA, Colo. — Several more parents in the Cherry Creek School District are coming forward alleging their children were either sexually harassed or assaulted, yet the district took little to no action to protect their children from the alleged suspects.

Parents are speaking up after a walkout last Wednesday at several schools in support of a sexual assault victim at Grandview High School.

“It’s just been a horrible experience,” said the father of another Grandview High victim.

For him, the nightmare started in Sept. 2020 after his daughter was allegedly sexually assaulted by two of her Grandview High School classmates.

“She attended a party at a friend’s house,” the dad said. “She had been sexually assaulted while she was at the house. We called the police immediately after they came out. I can’t really explain the emotions I was going through, it was all so surreal.”

Unfortunately, the father says things only got worse from there.

“When I spoke to the principal of Grandview, I was informed that there was nothing they could do," he said. "They even said that if there was a conviction, their hands were tied and there was not much they could do.”

His daughter ended up transferring to online learning and eventually a different high school.

“It seemed like the only choice to keep her from being revictimized,” the father said.

And he’s not alone.

“They’ve pushed this under the rug,” said a dad named Ben. “They want us all silenced. It’s 100 percent negligence.”

“These aren’t allegations,” said a mom named Sarah. “This actually happened.”

Sarah and Ben say their 7-year-old was shown "pornographic terms" by another 7-year-old while attending Antelope Ridge Elementary last year.

“They were on the laptops that the school hands out, and one of the boys asked her if she wanted to do "the sex" with him. She said, "I don’t know what that is,"” Sarah said.

In their case, Sarah and Ben say the district and school did nothing to protect their daughter.

“Not only were they not separated that day, but they weren’t separated moving forward,” Ben said. “The board, the executives, this is on them.”

“And the only reason that we have a platform to talk about it today is because of all of the very brave students who saw something and didn’t just say something,” Sarah said. “The walkout was a wonderful thing.”

“It gave us parents who are affected by all this the spotlight to tell you guys and everybody what is going on in the Cherry Creek School District," Ben said. "It is not good."

The district responded with a statement saying in part, "The district has followed both Title IX and CCSD board policies," and also said the district and Ben and Sarah resolved the case by coming to a mutual agreement.

But Ben and Sarah say there was never an agreement.

“Cherry Creek School District (CCSD) has finally chosen to acknowledge and respond to this incident, unfortunately their statement is categorically and foundationally a direct misrepresentation of the truth. We, the parents, never came to an agreement with the district because they never offered an acceptable solution for our child to safely move forward,” Ben and Sarah said in a statement. “We came to the realization (with the help of our families) that the district leaders knew exactly what they were doing – they stayed silent.”

The district told Denver7 there is very little they can do in these cases, but civil rights attorney Igor Raykin says that’s simply untrue.

“Imagine that you have made these accusations against someone, you clearly are bothered by this, and at the same time, you may have to see that person again,” Raykin said. “That can be terrifying for any victim of this kind of violence. Both Title IX, the federal law and the policies of the district and the state give Cherry Creek a great deal of authority here to take protective measures. But at the same time, they haven’t done it.”

Raykin says Cherry Creek is setting itself up for multiple lawsuits in these cases.

“Because the female is subjected to seeing the accused every day, every week, every month,” Raykin said. “Title IX is very clear, you must protect the life and safety of the victim.”

Instead, it’s often the families in these cases taking action themselves.

“We pulled her,” Ben said. “We didn’t have any choice. We had to move her schools.”

“They weren’t doing anything, in my opinion, to protect my daughter,” said the Grandview father.

Cherry Creek also responded to the Grandview High case on Monday, stating, “We cannot discuss details of this case because we must protect the privacy of all students involved.”

The statement goes on to say, “In general, we do work with families when there is a serious allegation and consider implementing a safety plan, which could include taking steps to separate class schedules, stagger passing periods, or find other ways to avoid having the students cross paths during the day. While moving a student to another school is sometimes a safety plan step, under current Title IX regulations we cannot take disciplinary measures such as moving a student based on allegations. When the parents of one of the students requests to have their own child moved to another school, we honor that request if we can.”

The Grandview father says it all falls on the victim.

“It was always actions that she had to take,” he said. “It was never the suspects. The district never has the victim’s best interests in mind. It’s not right.”

His daughter is now attending another school in the district where one of the suspect’s father’s works.

“She saw him one day,” the Grandview father said. “She had to come home. She couldn’t finish the day. She was very upset, just having to see him.”

Ben says it was similar in their case.

“She’s the victim,” Ben said. “She’s not the one who needs to be kept away from other kids. He was, and Cherry Creek failed to do that. It’s poorly led. The board, the executives, this is on them... It’s very, very scary for Cherry Creek parents right now.”

“We just really want justice,” said the Grandview father. “We want the district to be held accountable and we want to do everything we can to make sure other girls aren’t subject to what my daughter has had to go through.”

“We brought up Title IX, but Derek Mullner, director of elementary education for Cherry Creek, discouraged us from doing a Title IX,” Ben said.

It was only later that Ben and Sarah say Child Protective Services told them Title IX absolutely did apply in their case. Ben says he also called Arapahoe County’s Safe2Tell program.

“Her initial response was, "This is still happening?" I was not the first to call for this situation,” Ben said. “He was harassing her at lunch and at recess, and not just her, but other girls, too.”

Ben and Sarah say their daughter’s demeanor changed immediately once she changed schools.

“She was so much happier,” Ben said.

They say she’s a kid again, but they are speaking up so this doesn’t happen to anyone else.

“We’ve just exhausted ourselves,” Ben said. “We relied on the school to keep him away from her and they didn’t do that.”