Investigation into groping claims at South HS puts principal, 3 others on leave

Denver DA asks for special prosecutor

DENVER — Four South High School officials, including the school's principal and a student adviser, are on leave amid an investigation into the handling of groping accusations at a school homecoming week event. 

Denver7 Investigates sources confirmed Monday afternoon to Tony Kovaleski that the allegations surround a student-on-student groping and concerns that there was a delay in reporting by administrators.

Police said Tuesday morning that the the incident may have taken place on Sept. 14 but officers didn't learn about it until the 27th.

Denver Police officials say they investigated the groping claims but closed the case when parents decided they did not want to move forward with charges.

No arrests or charges were filed, and police declined to release reports due to the lack of charges. 

School administrators notified families on Oct. 20 of the decision to place South High School Principal Jen Hanson, student adviser Lynette Lucero, instructional superintendent Sean Precious and a fourth official, Barbara Downing, on administrative leave. 

"This is standard practice in a review of this type and it does not imply or prejudge in any way what the review might determine," the notification explained. 

Assistant Principal Cheri Hilton will be at the helm of the school through the investigation.

The investigation follows a shakeup in leadership at East High School over the way a cheerleading coach forced his cheerleaders to stay in splits despite their protests.

The story made national headlines and ultimately led to the resignation of the Lisa Porter, the assistant principal, the early retirement of Andy Mendelsberg, the principal. 

On Tuesday, Denver District Attorney Beth McCann filed a motion to appoint a special prosecutor from the 18th Judicial District's Office to the case, as there was a conflict of interest in the case involving someone from the Denver DA's office.

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