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Cherry Creek Schools says failure to notify parents about sexual harassment case was 'oversight'

District sends parents letter 6 months later
Cherry Creek Schools may change start times
Posted at 5:38 PM, May 02, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-02 20:21:15-04

DENVER — Denver7 learned Monday it took Cherry Creek Schools six months to notify the parents of a sexual harassment victim that their daughter's federal case was being dismissed.

That delayed response came even though the district admitted the case did rise to the level of harassment, and the district took corrective action on its own months ago.

Several other families have come forward alleging a pattern of negligence in the district surrounding sexual assault and harassment cases.

“This is an epidemic,” said Sarah Butler, mother of one victim of harassment. “The district isn’t dealing with it.”

“It’s not a narrative,” said Ben Toth, father of the victim. “These are things that happened - to kids. And in our case – an elementary student.”

Denver7 first introduced you to Butler and Toth last week, they are part of a group of parents who came forward about sexual harassment and sexual assault among Cherry Creek students, incidents that took place both on and off-campus.

"We ended up having to transfer my daughter to Elevations full online school," said another victim’s father. “It seemed like the only choice to keep her from being revictimized."

Several parents claim the district took little to no action after those incidents to protect the victims.

Then, last Friday - four days after Denver7's initial report - a compliance officer with the district sent Toth and Butler a letter stating in part, "I wrote a dismissal letter and provided it to the school."

That was back in December.

The letter goes on to say, "Unfortunately, I did not provide the letter of formal dismissal to you. That was an oversight on my part."

There was no apology in the letter.

“After reading that for the first time and after waiting so long – it was so disheartening and discouraging because I would have never thought that the district would just say, ‘Oh hey, Whoops. We forgot to tell you, but it's no big deal,’" Butler said.

Toth and Butler are more dismayed than ever at what they call utter negligence on many levels.

“The common denominator is the district,” Toth said. “There’s a lot of kids that have been affected by these assaults of various natures and the district’s response is always the same – it’s about nothing.”

In their case, Toth and Butler’s 7-year-old daughter was shown pornographic terms on a computer by a male student at Antelope Ridge Elementary.

“She didn’t deserve what happened to her,” Toth said. “And as parents, we didn’t get the opportunity to have conversations with her at the appropriate age.”

In the letter to the parents dated April 29, 2022, which was last Friday, the district admitted the case did rise to the level of sexual harassment under Cherry Creek school board policy.

The letter says the district did take action to prevent further harassment, including disciplinary measures against students involved and a requirement that all staff is more familiar with Title IX and school board harassment policies.

But Toth and Butler want to reiterate this was never about the teachers, but rather – district leadership.

“There are other moms and dads out there that are in the same boat as us,” Toth said. “We want the district to look at these things and say, ‘Hey, listen, we could have done something - and we acknowledge that we could have done something. Everybody else sees it. Why they don’t, we don’t understand.”

The allegation is that the same student harassed other students, as well.

“Our daughter looked at me and said, ‘So, I’m not the only one?’ And I said, ‘No – you’re not.’ And she gave me a huge hug and said, ‘I’m so sad this happened, but I’m so glad I’m not alone.’”

In a statement to Denver7 Monday afternoon, a district spokesperson said, “We do not have concerns that this is a systemic issue. The district equity compliance officer spoke with the Toth family on the phone on November 5, 2021, to advise the family that the allegations did not qualify as sexual harassment under Title IX and the case was being dismissed.”

But Butler says that was the first and only conversation they ever had with the compliance officer after initially reporting the harassment in late October.

Toeth and Butler say they were told the district would be back in touch regarding definitive and formal action, but they received no other communication from the compliance officer until last Friday, four days after news coverage of their story.

“We never talked to that person again,” Butler said. “The district is going to point fingers at whomever they can as to not be held accountable.”