The father of a student who was allegedly sexually assaulted by a classmate at Riverview Elementary School has filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education saying that Durango School District Superintendent Dan Snowberger violated federal law in compromising his child’s privacy.
The complaint stems from the distribution of a printed copy of an email Snowberger sent to The Durango Herald on Oct. 10 in response to questions from a Herald reporter about the district’s investigation of the alleged sexual assault. The father believes the district mishandled the investigation, and in response, he filed a complaint with the Office of Civil Rights alleging that the district violated Title IX.
In that email to the Herald, Snowberger disputes some of the father’s statements. Snowberger also accuses the father of “neglect” of his child during the investigation – a point the father said was hurtful.
According to the father, Snowberger directed Riverview Principal Doug Geygan to provide the school’s parent-teacher organization with a printed copy of the email.
The email, the father said, contained information about his child and his child’s educational record that can be used to easily identify his child. He said this is a violation of the federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act.
The 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.
In addition, a parent who attended the meeting Nov. 14, speaking to the Herald on condition of anonymity, said Geygan told those in attendance – about 30 people – that he was directed by Snowberger to make the email he had sent to the Herald available. The parent said Geygan explained he wasn’t going to hand out the email copy, but he would leave a stack of them by the door for parents to pick up themselves. More than once, the parent said, Geygan explained he was providing copies at Snowberger’s request.
Lauren Thompson, president of Riverview PTO, did not respond to two calls from the Herald on Wednesday and Thursday to comment about what took place at the PTO meeting.
Geygan told the Herald on Thursday that all questions had to go through district administration.
In an email to the Herald, Nancy Stubbs, president of the 9-R Board of Education, wrote that Snowberger has been instructed not to discuss the situation until the Office of Civil Rights investigation is complete. As a result, questions sent to Snowberger for this story were not answered.
The father of the alleged victim said he believes Snowberger circulated the email in an attempt to discredit and smear the family and his child.
“What was distributed at the PTO meeting is detrimental to my son and detrimental to our community,” the father told the Herald on Wednesday.
“By releasing that handout at the PTO meeting, the message Dan Snowberger is putting out there is that if you report a sexual assault in 9-R, you’ll have your character publicly drug through the mud.”
In previous interviews with the Herald, Snowberger disagreed that the school district failed to properly investigate the complaint and said he welcomed an investigation by the Office of Civil Rights, which is ongoing.
In the Oct. 10 email to the Herald, Snowberger details his narrative of the alleged sexual assault and how it was investigated by the district.
The father of the student said there are several inaccuracies in that email, including:
Snowberger wrote that the parents would not allow their child to be interviewed by school staff or Durango police. The father said he recorded his child’s account of the alleged sexual assault the day it happened and provided it to Geygan the next day. In a recorded meeting with 9-R’s Title IX officer, Laura Galido, on July 23, the father – who provided a copy of the audio recording to the Herald – told her they have not objected to his son being interviewed, but he wanted to understand the process better because he did not want to subject his child to repeated interviews that could be retraumatizing. Galido told the father to consult a therapist to talk to his child instead of being interviewed by police or the school district. The family then went to a counselor recommended by the district.Snowberger wrote that the father illegally recorded a confidential hearing with the 9-R Board of Directors. In fact, Colorado is a one-party consent state, which means a person can record a conversation without the other party’s permission. Therefore, the recording was not illegal, according to lawyer Steve Zansberg of Ballard Spahr. Zansberg represents the Herald. At the end of Snowberger’s email, he wrote to the Herald: “... your reporter ... has only been provided one-sided allegations and false statements summarized by the parent.”
He also wrote what that this is a “situation where a child is being neglected by his own parent refusing to allow an appropriate investigation and supports in concert with the school to be provided.”
“That’s the furthest from the truth,” the father said. “I put countless hours into this. To say that I’ve neglected my child is crazy and intended to smear me.”
A representative with the Office of Civil Rights would not comment for this story. The father said he has not heard from the office since he filed the complaint.