Student in sex case back in class at Aspen High School
Ryan Summerlin October 11, 2012
ASPEN – An Aspen High School student facing criminal and civil charges stemming from an alleged incident of sexual misconduct against a fellow student is attending classes at the school this semester.
Aspen School District Superintendent John Maloy confirmed that the student is enrolled at Aspen High. He would not confirm or deny whether the student had been asked to the leave the school this spring; Colorado Department of Education records show that one student at the high school was expelled in 2011-12. The alleged victim graduated from AHS in 2012.
“We have taken appropriate measures and this student has returned to school,” Maloy said. “We have made sure to create – as we do on a daily basis – a safe learning environment for all students.”
According to documents filed in Pitkin County District Court in August, a Pitkin County man and his daughter are suing a local couple and their son, as well as the Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard Club and its board of directors, after the boy allegedly made unwanted sexual advances toward the girl during a December ski-team trip to Summit County. At the time, both were 16-year-old members of AVSC’s J2 ski team who attended Aspen High School.
According to AVSC Executive Director Mark Cole, the boy “is not currently eligible to be training with us.” Cole would not comment further on the pending litigation or criminal charges.
The lawsuit, which includes counts of unwanted sexual conduct and/or sexual assault, among other accusations, seeks monetary compensation for mental and emotional distress, pain and suffering, anxiety and inconvenience as well as statutory damages and attorneys fees.
On the criminal side, Deputy District Attorney Arnold Mordkin confirmed that there are “pending juvenile court cases in both Pitkin and Summit counties.” He said the charges are “felony-level type crimes” but could not elaborate because the case involves a minor.
The boy’s return to Aspen High has created concern among some parents. According to Maloy, the district is “taking the matter seriously and has attempted to address the concerns of students and parents on both sides of this issue.” And while the district does not have a formal, written policy regarding the enrollment of students who are facing criminal charges, administrators “follow a specific protocol” before allowing such students to attend classes.
The first step is a threat assessment, whereby a minimum of two professionals evaluate the student to determine whether “he or she may or may not be seen as a threat or potential threat to other students.”
The next step, if necessary, is the creation of a “safety plan.” According to Maloy, this could involve teachers, support staff, resource officers and others. It could include “a limited or declining” class schedule and/or “certain supervision or monitoring requirements.”
The final step would be “a conversation with the appropriate parties” about whether a particular student can be excluded from school.
“Being charged with a crime does not automatically remove the right to attend school nor our obligation to educate,” Maloy said. “So what we must do is assess the level of threat and respond accordingly.
“There are a host of possible outcomes in these situations.”
Maloy said the Aspen School District is in contact with prosecutors to stay abreast of the court proceedings, and “based on the outcome, we will determine if additional steps need to be taken.”
The boy is set to appear in Pitkin County Court on the criminal charges in November.