The U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights has announced it is opening an investigation against Durango School District 9-R after a father of a student filed a complaint that 9-R did not properly investigate a report about his son being sexually assaulted by a classmate.
The Office of Civil Rights notified the father of the alleged victim on Oct. 18 that the father’s complaint, filed about two weeks ago, justified a full investigation.
“Please note that opening the allegation for investigation in no way implies that we have made a determination with regard to its merit,” the Office of Civil Rights wrote. “During the investigation, OCR is a neutral fact-finder, collecting and analyzing relevant evidence.”
The Durango Herald does not print the names of sexual assault victims without their consent. The name of the father is being withheld to prevent the identification of the alleged victim.
“I’m cautiously optimistic that the Department of Education will prompt the district to take a hard look at their practices,” the father wrote in an email to the Herald on Tuesday. “At the end of the day, all anyone would want is for the district to take sexual harassment seriously. At present, the district doesn’t employ best practices.”
The father of the alleged victim filed a complaint with the OCR on Oct. 3, saying Durango School District 9-R failed to properly investigate an incident he reported about his son being sexually assaulted by a classmate at Riverview Elementary School.
The father also says Superintendent Dan Snowberger did not allow the family of the alleged victim immediate access to the district’s Title IX compliance officer, the staff member trained in the civil rights law. Snowberger and the district’s Title IX compliance officer, Laura Galido, investigated the incident and concluded there was no evidence to support that the assault happened as reported.
Snowberger and Durango 9-R spokeswoman Julie Popp did not immediately respond to requests for comment Tuesday morning. Snowberger in previous interviews declined any wrongdoing on the school district’s part. He also has said if the Office of Civil Rights finds any misconduct on the school district’s part, he would resign.
The Office of Civil Rights had 30 days from the day the complaint was filed on Oct. 3 to decide whether to proceed with an investigation, dismiss the complaint or request additional information.
There was no time frame for completion of the investigation included in the letter the Office of Civil Rights sent to the alleged victim’s father.