Aurora Central High School paraprofessional released in sexual assault investigation

AURORA, Colo. - An Aurora Central High School employee has been released following his arrest for allegedly sexually assaulting a disabled student who was unable to speak, according to records obtained by 7NEWS.

Joel Aaron Stahl, 32, was arrested at his Denver home on Sunday night, Aurora police said. He is a paraprofessional at Aurora Central High School.

Stahl was arrested on investigation of sexual assault on a child under age 15 by one in a position of trust and crimes against at-risk juveniles. Both of those crimes are felonies.

Monday evening, police announced his release from custody:

"The investigation into this matter continues. However, based upon new and conflicting statements by a witness, the police department has determined that a criminal case can not go forward at this time. The Aurora Police Department will continue to work closely with Aurora Public Schools and the District Attorney’s Office to pursue this matter to a proper conclusion."

Stahl had appeared earlier Monday in Arapahoe County court, where he was advised of the charges against him.

The police department is asking parents of children who may have information on the case to contact Agent Steve Crowe with the Sex Crimes Unit at 303-739-6153.

"We’re still keeping it open," said Sgt. Chris Amsler, a spokesman for Aurora Police."Hopefully, there is someone who knows more about this case or additional witnesses out there that would be willing to talk to our investigators, so that we can come to a resolution in this case."

Aurora Central High School Assistant Principal Garrett Douglas notified the Aurora Police Department of the alleged abuse on Thursday afternoon, according to an arrest affidavit obtained by 7NEWS.

Douglas told an officer who arrived to investigate that he had been contacted earlier Thursday by four staff members -- a department chairwoman, a teacher and two paraprofessionals -- about the sexual assault of  "a mentally/physically disabled student that does not have [the] ability verbally communicate," the affidavit said.   

Douglas said that, just prior to the December 2013 Christmas break, a female paraprofessional saw a disabled female student using her hand to rub Stahl's genital area through his clothing, the affidavit said. A second female paraprofessional told Stahl to stop the child from rubbing him, and Stahl did.

One of the female paraprofessionals on Thursday told Douglas she was uncomfortable with Stahl being around the disabled student and wanted to prevent future contact between Stahl and the girl.

But the female paraprofessionals did not report the December incident when it happened, the affidavit said.

Then on the afternoon of Feb. 27, a female paraprofessional and Stahl were changing a disabled female student's diaper. The female paraprofessional said she was down to her last latex glove and she left to restock the glove supply, leaving Stahl alone with the girl.

The female paraprofessional said she returned to find that Stahl had pulled down the disabled child's pants and he appeared to be rubbing the girl's genitals with a finger, the affidavit said.

The female paraprofessional told Stahl to stop and "Stahl evidently became very defensive, yelled at (the female paraprofessional), and then moved away" from the student, a police investigator wrote in the affidavit.

Douglas told the police that male paraprofessionals "are not supposed to change diapers of female disabled students."

Aurora Public Schools issued a statement Monday that stated in part, "We have learned that a paraprofessional staff member may have behaved inappropriately toward a student with a disability at Central High School. We are deeply concerned by this and want to emphasize that we do not tolerate inappropriate behavior by staff. Student safety is our top priority, and school leaders immediately contacted the Aurora Police Department when they learned about the allegation. We also promptly contacted the parents of the student to inform them of the allegation and offer our support."

Without naming Stahl, the district said, "The employee has been placed on administrative leave and will have no further contact with students." A district spokeswoman told 7NEWS that two other employees were also placed on administrative leave while the district conducts an internal investigation of the alleged assault.

"We do not tolerate inappropriate staff behavior, and we are doing a review of our practices to determine how something of this nature may have happened," the district said.

Here's the full Aurora Public Schools statement issued earlier:

We have learned that a paraprofessional staff member may have behaved inappropriately toward a student with a disability at Central High School. We are deeply concerned by this and want to emphasize that we do not tolerate inappropriate behavior by staff. Student safety is our top priority, and school leaders immediately contacted the Aurora Police Department when they learned about the allegation. We also promptly contacted the parents of the student to inform them of the allegation and offer our support.

We take this matter seriously and are cooperating fully with the police. The employee has been placed on administrative leave and will have no further contact with students.

We have notified parents to assure them that the employee has been removed from the school and will have no further contact with students. News of this incident may be troubling for our staff and students, so we will have counselors available.

This allegation is concerning, and we are conducting a thorough investigation.  When any employee is hired in Aurora Public Schools, we conduct a full background check, including a Colorado Bureau of Investigation review.  The background check for this employee did not indicate any prior inappropriate behavior with students or criminal activity. Due to privacy laws, we are unable to disclose additional information about this employee or the allegation. 

We do not tolerate inappropriate staff behavior, and we are doing a review of our practices to determine how something of this nature may have happened. We are committed to providing every student with a safe and positive learning experience, every day. 

During the 2012-2013 school year, Stahl also worked as a paraprofessional at an elementary school within the Denver Public School District. DPS says parents of students at that school will be informed before the name of the school is released to the public.

Print this article Back to Top