ASPEN - Aspen School District administrators are taking a proactive approach when it comes to addressing the weekend arrest of a middle school teacher on charges of cocaine possession and driving under the influence, though they would not speculate on the outcome of the investigation.
A letter sent to Aspen Middle School parents Tuesday outlines the steps the school has taken "to support your students during this time, and to share with a you a few 'talking points' about how to discuss this incident with your child."
The incident involved fifth-grade teacher Bruce Johnson, who faces charges of driving under the influence and DUI per se, along with two felony counts - unlawful possession of a controlled substance (cocaine) and introducing contraband in the second degree. He was arrested early Saturday morning; his first court appearance is set for Dec. 17.
"It is never easy to discuss sensitive topics with your children. ... I have learned over the years that our children are capable of great insight when provided opportunities to do so," wrote middle school Principal Tom Heald. "While this may be a difficult topic to discuss with your child, you have been presented a great opportunity to have meaningful dialog about critical issues, and the decision making processes that you use in your family."
Middle school administrators, the school counselor and the school resource officer met Tuesday with staff, students and others, such as students on Johnson's athletic teams, "to allow them a time to process this information and to give a voice to their confusion or frustration."
Johnson was placed on administrative leave pending an investigation into the incident. Aspen Superintendent John Maloy could not comment on when the matter might be resolved, stating that "there are generally two investigations occurring simultaneously - an internal investigation and the investigation conducted by the arresting authorities. In many cases, one may be dependent upon the other.
"Therefore, it is possible that an investigation of this nature may include the outcome of the staff member's day in court."
The district's personnel handbook has no specific protocol for a teacher charged with alcohol or drug crimes while not on school grounds or when not working with children. It does include a section referencing a supportive approach for staff members self-reporting a drug or alcohol problem. Maloy said he could not respond if this is applicable in this case as "it becomes a matter of personnel."
Johnson, who teaches fifth grade and also coaches girls volleyball and teaches driver education, had no comment Monday other than to "apologize to those who have been affected" by his actions.