Greeley charter school officials fail to report unlawful sexual contact allegations against teacher to police
Officials at a Greeley charter school took it upon themselves to investigate a sex-related complaint involving an eighth-grade girl and a male teacher, firing the teacher but failing to contact law enforcement in apparent violation of Colorado mandatory reporting requirements, a Greeley Tribune investigation has uncovered.
The Tribune first learned about the allegations from parents at the school and later confirmed them with law enforcement and school officials.
Instead of reporting to police the unlawful sexual contact complaint Salida del Sol Academy officials received this past spring, Executive Director Joe Melendez and school security guard Anthony Antuna — both retired police officers — investigated the incident.
The school fired the teacher, but officials maintain they had no obligation to report the accusations that led to the teacher's dismissal. The Tribune is not naming the teacher because he hasn't been arrested or charged with any crime.
“What we can tell you is that there was a thorough investigation, and based on that investigation, the administrative team made a recommendation to the board." — Virginia Rosales, Salida del Sol board member
It's unclear why the girl's parents didn't notify police, or whether the girl's parents even know about the incident.
The Greeley Police Department has no record of a complaint against the teacher, and school officials have confirmed they never brought the allegations to police.
That runs contrary to Greeley-Evans School District 6 policy, where former Greeley police officer and current District 6 Director of Safety John Gates said they always report such accusations to authorities.
It also could run contrary to law, as education officials are among the dozens of people who must report allegations of child abuse — including sexual abuse — to police.
Greeley Police Chief Jerry Garner confirmed the same and said an investigation is underway after The Tribune brought the allegations to his attention. Gates also spoke with Salida del Sol officials after The Tribune brought the allegations to district officials' attention.
Melendez and Salida del Sol board member Virginia Rosales defended the school's decision to keep the investigation in-house during an interview at the school this past Wednesday and in a follow-up email this past Friday.
"What we can tell you is that there was a thorough investigation, and based on that investigation, the administrative team made a recommendation to the board," Rosales said, adding it was a personnel matter she wouldn't discuss further.
Melendez is a retired Greeley police sergeant and Antuna is a retired University of Northern Colorado police officer, something Rosales emphasized in a follow-up email Friday where she also said there wasn't enough evidence to warrant criminal charges.
But police — retired or active — don't make determinations about criminal charges. Garner said, except in rare cases, law enforcement gathers facts and then presents those to the district attorney to see whether charges will be brought.
"Generally speaking, allegations of sexual assault — particularly on a child, we would want the DA to look at that," Garner said.
After the investigation, Melendez recommended the board fire the teacher. In a follow-up email, Rosales sought to explain the decision.
"The discharge occurred because previously directions were given to this teacher as to how to conduct himself appropriately and professionally in order to make sure there weren't any allegations," Rosales' email read, in part. "He failed to respond to those directives. We certainly would have reported it if there was something sufficient enough to do that."
Whether there was sufficient reason to report, codified in law as "reasonable cause to know or suspect" such an incident, likely will be determined during the Greeley Police Department's ongoing investigation. In fact, administrators at Salida del Sol Academy could face up to six months jail time for failure to report, though penalties for failure to report are seldom that significant in Colorado.
Rosales said the school was still in an infancy stage and was still learning and growing. When asked whether school officials would look at changing school policy with regard to the incident, Rosales said they would continue to look at policies.