Our view: School investigation is on the right track
The Steamboat Springs School District announced the selection of an investigator to oversee the probe into a negative culture at the high school stemming from an alleged mishandling of reports of sexual misconduct made by students, which has led some victims to feel afraid to speak out.
The gravity of the situation led to a number of parents and students attending a school board meeting in December to express their concerns. The newly seated school board members took the allegations seriously and quickly announced in a special meeting that the district would be hiring an independent third party to investigate the situation.
We applaud the board’s quick actions, and we’re encouraged by how the investigation is beginning to unfold.
First, Superintendent Brad Meeks invited the input from Advocates of Routt County and the Steamboat Springs Police Department in selecting an investigator, taking advantage of both organizations’ expertise. As a result, the district appears to have hired a top-notch investigator in Jane Quimby with Quimby and Associates in Grand Junction.
Based on her experience, we think she’s the right woman for the job. Not only is she a former FBI agent but she also has experience working with victims who’ve experienced trauma. She’s an attorney, so she knows the law, and she’s a former educator, so she also understands school culture. In addition, she has conducted similar investigations at both secondary and higher education institutions.
We also think Meeks made the right decision in placing Steamboat Springs High School Principal Kevin Taulman on paid administrative leave and then removing himself from direct involvement in the investigation. The investigator will report directly with the district’s attorney rather than Meeks. These steps help ensure the credibility of the process.
By removing the administration from the investigative process, students and families should feel more comfortable coming forward with their concerns without fear of retribution. They can rest assured the information they share will be kept confidential, and we hope that feeling of safety results in relevant and important information being shared with the investigator.
At issue: The Steamboat Springs School District has hired an investigator to look into allegations of a ‘negative culture’ at the high school.
Our view: The school board and superintendent are taking concerns seriously, and so far, have taken steps to ensure the credibility of the investigation.
- Logan Molen, publisher
- Lisa Schlichtman, editor
- Jason Gilligan, community representative
- Don Moss, community representative
The board’s sense of urgency in getting this investigation underway is commendable, and we understand the need for the end-of-March deadline for the investigation to be complete. With that said, we encourage the board to consider extending the contract with the investigator if the initial inquiry focused on the high school indicates the problem extends to the middle school or below.
Based on conversations the board had at its Jan. 27 meeting, we believe school board members are committed to following the investigation wherever it may lead, but they also are determined to pinpoint problems as quickly as possible so that work on solutions can begin.
And once the investigation is complete, it will be vitally important that the school district release as much of the report as possible to the public. We understand the need to protect victims and minors, but the entire process could be hijacked if the community believes they aren’t being told the full story. The more information released publicly, the more confidence the public will have in the investigation.
As School Board President Kelly Latterman said, the school board can’t fix anything if they don’t know it’s broken. And based on recent actions, it appears to us the board is ready and willing to listen and then work to make things better, which is what we, as a community, should support and work toward.
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