An ongoing Denver7 investigation is exposing two more arrests of school employees charged with sexual abuse of students that were not reported to parents at those schools.
Now, the focus moves to Aurora Public Schools where two teachers were not only arrested but reached plea deals and began serving their sentences before the school provided the information to their communities.
Zachary Timbrell was a popular music teacher at Vista Peak Preparatory before he abruptly resigned in June of 2016.
It was not until several days later that the school learned the reason why: Aurora Police were investigating allegations Timbrell had an inappropriate relationship with one of his students.
Police spent several months investigating, and in late December they filed charges. Their arrest affidavit details months of abuse, with Timbrell inappropriately touching the victim in his classroom and after concerts, giving her gifts, sending her emails saying, “I hope I haven’t pushed the physical side of things too far.”
Timbrell was arrested and taken to jail, but the Aurora Public School District says it was unaware that had happened.
Police confirm they didn't notify the school because Timbrell no longer worked there.
The state Board of Education revoked Timbrell’s teaching license in May, citing the allegations.
But parents and students were largely unaware until Denver7 Investigates covered the former teacher’s sentencing to 90 days in jail in late October – more than a year after he left the school.
“We didn't wait [to notify parents.] We were notified, after he resigned from our community, after he resigned from the Aurora Public Schools [that] there was a police investigation. We were not a party that was kept up to speed and notified of the status of that. Once we were notified about the sentencing at the end of the police investigation, we notified our community,” said Aurora Public Schools superintendent Rico Munn.
The victim in Timbrell's case told Denver7 Investigates she believes schools should inform their communities when cases like these occur.
“If it’s made known that this happened, there may be other victims that come forward. I personally don’t think that there were in this case, but I think generally people should be aware of this because other people may come forward that were too scared or too manipulated to come forward in the past," she said.
"There are certainly victims out there who feel hurt and have an understandable loss of trust in us, and it's our responsibility to try to build back up that trust," Munn said in response.
The superintendent said the school would have sent a letter to parents after learning of the sentencing regardless of whether the media covered the case or not. But when another teacher in the same district was sentenced on similar charges involving a student, no such letter was sent.
Administrators at the Clyde Miller P-8 school called Aurora police in January of 2016 to report allegations sixth grade teacher Katelyn Davis was having “communications of a sexual nature” with a female student at the school.
“We got information that the teacher may have been having an inappropriate relationship with a student. We reported that to the authorities, we removed the teacher from that context, and the police took over with that investigation,” Munn said.
The student’s family brought forward the allegations to the school, and the school put Davis on administrative leave. The school sent a letter to parents indicating Davis was on leave but not explaining why.
In February, the school sent another letter to parents saying the teacher’s leave was related to an investigation of a “personnel matter.” That same month, the district turned over messages from the teacher’s school email account in which she corresponded with the student about the ongoing police investigation and referenced having a sexual relationship with her.
In July of 2016, Aurora police arrested Katelyn Davis. In May of 2017, she reached a plea deal, admitting to two felony counts that require her to register as a sex offender. The district has communicated with Denver7 Investigates that it did not send any written correspondence to the school community about the arrest or conviction.
“There were individual meetings with parents and families as they raised concerns,” Munn said.
When asked for his opinion about whether parents should be told when a teacher is accused of sexually assaulting a student, Munn said the district has a responsibility to provide timely and accurate information without ongoing jeopardizing law enforcement investigations.
“I don’t think it’s about my opinion, it’s about having a close relationship with our community, and trying to understand … how do we communicate information that provides them solid information, things they can act upon, but also supports the protection of our students by supporting law enforcement,” the superintendent said.
Police, districts discuss changes
Aurora police investigated the arrests of three of the teachers whose schools did not inform parents about the charges. The department said in a statement it would initiate meetings with school districts to discuss their notification procedures.
“As a common practice, Aurora Public Schools works closely with the Aurora Police Department on any messaging that is being sent out to parents to prevent the release of information that may impede or alter the active investigation. The Aurora Police Department is currently in the process of meeting with Aurora Public Schools as well as the Cherry Creek School District to improve notification process guidelines. We are committed to our cooperative working relationship with our two school districts,” the district wrote.
Aurora’s superintendent said his district would consider whether policies need to change in light of the questions surrounding the arrests of Timbrell and Davis.
“We constantly evaluate our policy,” Munn said. “I think parents and communities want to have a close connection with their school district, they want to understand how we communicate, why we communicate and when we communicate.”