UPDATED
Denver D.A.’s Office Affirms ‘Juvenile Process’ at Work in Norwood Sex Assault Case
by Marta Tarbell
Apr 23, 2012 | 7855 views | 6 6 comments | 31 31 recommendations | email to a friend | print
UPDATED STORY posted on Monday, April 23:

More Information Could Be Released This Week

SAN MIGUEL COUNTY – Three Norwood students face charges in an alleged sexual assault that took place at the Colorado State Wrestling Tournament in Denver, at the Pepsi Center, some time between Feb. 16-18.

According to Lynn Kimbrough, communications director for the Denver District Attorney's Office, more information in the case will be forthcoming.

“As part of the juvenile process, which is largely confidential, there may be things taking place this week, possibly today, that I will not be able to confirm or comment on,” Kimbrough wrote in a Monday morning email to The Watch.

"I don’t expect to have information that I can release or comment on until perhaps Friday," Kimbrough added.

Legal System Moves Quickly

Denver Police Department investigators visited Norwood schools on April 10, questioning students and adults about allegations regarding the mid-February incident.

A spokesperson confirmed, on Tuesday, April 17, that “Denver police detectives met with prosecutors from the Denver District Attorney’s Office today to review the investigation of allegations” about behavior “that occurred in February at the Pepsi Center during the state wrestling championship. The investigation and our decision-making process are still ongoing at this time.”

At its regularly scheduled April 17 meeting, the Norwood School Board announced to a packed room of well over a hundred that they would not discuss the specifics regarding the mid-February incident.

The April 17 meeting was apparently well-scripted and efficiently run, starting with a request from Board President Bob Harris to be recused. Following a unanimous "Aye" vote, Harris stepped down to join the standing-room-only audience.

Boardmember Calvin Calhoun then read a prepared statement outlining the board’s position to an audience warned beforehand to not discuss specifics of the alleged assault.

“An incident occurred in Denver at the State Wrestling Tournament, resulting in disciplinary action,” Calhoun read from a typed document. “After being subsequently advised of the matter, the School Board asked the Superintendent to review the District’s current policies and regulations pertaining to supervision and student discipline. This has been done and the administration has met with staff and coaches to emphasize the importance of supervising students to ensure a safe environment.

“Additionally, Don Wilson, a District employee, has had his position modified to take on additional duties as Dean of Students, with primary responsibility for student discipline and safety, for the remainder of this school year.

“The students involved in the incident in Denver were juveniles in grades 7-9. No State participating wrestlers were involved in the incident.

“The Norwood School Board and the School District will not discuss the specifics of the incident or any specific information about the students or District employees involved because these are confidential student and personnel matters.”

Despite Pep Rally Overtones, Some Big Questions

From the front row, parent Ray Cossey volleyed a string of questions about school policy, ranging from questions about who can use school vehicles at sports events to the policy governing expenses for staff spouses to the role of a team’s paid “administrator” when it comes to managing students and members of students’ families in attendance at away sports events.

On that last count, Norwood School Board member (and former Nucla Elementary School principal) Larry Swain answered, “I strongly suggest that you have an administrator at any varsity event.” Because coaches don’t necessarily “have time to deal with” problems that might arise outside the field of play, “Some leagues require that an administrator be there,” Swain added.

“The district always picks up” the cost of “the base room” at the hotel/motel for the coach and administrator, he added.

In its early stages, the April 17 school board meeting had the sound and feel of a pep rally.

Voicing concern about how Facebook has “been lit up with everything that’s been going on” regarding fallout from the mid-February incident in Denver, Nucla native Sharlene Nusser, who attended Norwood schools and whose two young children now attend Norwood schools as well, said, “They ride 54 miles round-trip because they get a better education here than in Nucla.

“It’s very easy to forget that our children are the purpose of what we do,” said Nusser, going on to voice confidence in a school whose teachers would walk her daughter, now in kindergarten, from the school bus to the preschool, so that “she is never unattended.

“We need to look at the big picture, which is that our children are in a safe facility….We need to look at the big picture of what’s going on,” she said, to applause.

Parent Wendy Campbell weighed in, “Our kids are in a better place because of the Norwood School District,” which has, she went on to lament, been “overshadowed in the last month or so” by fallout from tournament allegations.

“We do not need to be overshadowed by an incident [that] needs to be taken care of. This is such a good place,” she said, to applause.

Paul Wilson, another Norwood alumnus whose children now attend Norwood schools, said, “There is no doubt in my mind that my kids are safe here, and probably safer here than I was when I went to school.”

But, he went on, “I think a lot of things have led up to this one incident, and that’s what we have to get to the bottom of – how it got this far, how it happened at the upper chain of command.”

According to reports from persons close to the case, the alleged assault took place on a Norwood school bus.

Prior to the April 17 school board meeting, The Watch filed a Freedom of Information Act request for records of school board conversations, in their regular monthly meeting and in executive session, concerning allegations reportedly brought to them regarding a mid-February assault, in Denver, on a 13-year-old student.

In response to being notified about the FOIA request, a staffer with the Colorado Department of Education’s Justice Department said last week that the CDE had looked for confirmation of reports of “civil rights violations” at Norwood schools, from Feb. 16 up to the present, and found none.

The Colorado Child Protection Act of 1987 requires school employees who have reason to believe that a child in their care has been assaulted must report their suspicions, in writing and orally, to county social services and/or law enforcement authorities.

BREAKING NEWS posted on Friday, April 20:

Norwood School Board Addresses Allegations of Sexual Assault

Because minors are involved, no discussion of specifics is permitted.

According to unofficial sources, three Norwood students are being charged in an alleged assault at the Colorado State Wrestling Tournament in Denver that took place sometime between Feb. 16-18.

According to Lynn Kimbrough, communications director for the Denver District Attorney's Office, "As part of the juvenile process, which is largely confidential, there may be things taking place this week, possibly today, that I will not be able to confirm or comment on. 

"I don’t expect to have information that I can release or comment on until perhaps Friday," Kimbrough added.

STORY POSTED on Wednesday, April 18:

NORWOOD – The Norwood School Board announced to a packed room of well over a hundred people on Tuesday evening that they would not discuss the specifics of an incident involving minors that took place at the Colorado State Wrestling Tournament in Denver on Feb. 16-18.

The Watch reported in an online story posted Thursday, April 12, that Denver Police are investigating the incident, which allegedly involves a sexual assault.

A spokesperson with the Denver District Attorney’s office confirmed late Tuesday that “Denver police detectives met with prosecutors from the Denver District Attorney’s Office today to review the investigation of allegations” about behavior “that occurred in February at the Pepsi Center during the state wrestling championship. The investigation and our decision-making process are still ongoing at this time.”

There could be more information by the end of this week, the spokesperson said.

The Norwood School Board’s regularly scheduled meeting on Tuesday was apparently well-scripted and efficiently run, starting with a request by Board President Bob Harris to be excused from participating. Following a unanimous vote to excuse Harris, he joined the standing-room-only audience, taking a seat in the front row.

Boardmember Calvin Calhoun then read a prepared statement of the board’s position to an audience that was warned beforehand to not discuss specifics of the alleged assault.

“An incident occurred in Denver at the State Wrestling Tournament, resulting in disciplinary action,” Calhoun read from a typed document. “After being subsequently advised of the matter, the School Board asked the Superintendent to review the District’s current policies and regulations pertaining to supervision and student discipline. This has been done and the administration has met with staff and coaches to emphasize the importance of supervising students to ensure a safe environment.

“Additionally, Don Wilson, a District employee, has had his position modified to take on additional duties as Dean of Students, with primary responsibility for student discipline and safety, for the remainder of this school year.

“The students involved in the incident in Denver were juveniles in grades 7-9. No State participating wrestlers were involved in the incident.

“The Norwood School Board and the School District will not discuss the specifics of the incident or any specific information about the students or District employees involved because these are confidential student and personnel matters.”

Pointed Questions

From the front row, parent Ray Cossey volleyed a string of questions about school policy, ranging from questions about who can use school vehicles at sports events to the policy governing expenses for staff spouses to the role of a team’s paid “administrator” when it comes to managing students and members of students’ families in attendance at away sports events.

On that last count, Norwood School Board member (and former Nucla Elementary School principal) Larry Swain answered, “I strongly suggest that you have an administrator at any varsity event.” Because coaches don’t necessarily “have time to deal with” problems that might arise outside the field of play, “Some leagues require that an administrator be there,” Swain added.

“The district always picks up” the cost of “the base room” at the hotel/motel for the coach and administrator, he added.

Voicing concern about how Facebook has “been lit up with everything that’s been going on” regarding fallout from the wrestling-tournament incident in Denver, Nucla native Sharlene Nusser, who attended Norwood schools and whose two young children now attend Norwood schools as well, said, “They ride 54 miles round-trip because they get a better education here than in Nucla.

“It’s very easy to forget that our children are the purpose of what we do,” said Nusser, going on to voice confidence in a school whose teachers would walk her daughter, now in kindergarten, from the school bus to the preschool, so that “she is never unattended.

“We need to look at the big picture, which is that our children are in a safe facility….We need to look at the big picture of what’s going on,” she said, to applause.

Paul Wilson, another Norwood alumnus whose children now attend Norwood schools, said, “There is no doubt in my mind that my kids are safe here, and probably safer here than I was when I went to school.”

But, he went on, “I think a lot of things have led up to this one incident, and that’s what we have to get to the bottom of – how it got this far, how it happened at the upper chain of command.”

Parent Wendy Campbell weighed in, “Our kids are in a better place because of the Norwood School District,” which has, she went on to lament, been “overshadowed in the last month or so” by fallout from tournament allegations.

“We do not need to be overshadowed by an incident [that] needs to be taken care of. This is such a good place,” she said, to applause.

Beyond Rumors

Word of the alleged February incident moved beyond rumors when Denver Police confirmed that officers were at the Norwood School on Tuesday, April 10, interviewing students and staff. After the story was reported at watchnewspapers.com, parents of children in the Norwood Schools reported in anonymous comments on The Watch website that they would attend the next meeting of the school board, which took place on Tuesday.

While the meeting was crowded, the handful of parents who spoke were strongly supportive of the district and district staff, and most of their comments were met with applause.

The Colorado Child Protection Act of 1987 requires school employees who have reason to believe that a child in their care has been assaulted must report their suspicions, in writing and orally, to county social services and/or law enforcement authorities.

Comments
(6)
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cornetfalls
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April 21, 2012
It's times like these when newspaper publishers truly, thanklessly, earn their pay. Thanks Marta, for handling this tragic issue personally and not handing it off to staff. Thanks for handling it professionally. Good luck to you and good luck to Norwood. And without judging this particular issue, thanks to all that have the courage to stand up to bullying.
FoxNewsSucks
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April 19, 2012
It is easy for everyone to sit back and pass judgement one way or the other. No one knows all the facts - except those directly involved in the situation. Unless you are involved, please be considerate of those who are directly impacted and be considerate, if not fair, neighbor.

The students of Norwood should receive adequate and equal protections from the administration which includes the PRINCIPAL, the SUPERINTENDENT and the SCHOOL BOARD. If blame must be placed, I think the adults must first look at themselves. Is there a clear policy toward bullying? Do students know the ramifications? Are complaints taken to the administration treated equally and without bias? Is one student given preferential treatment over another? Has there been times in the past where an incident has been reported and consequences were not imposed? Do our administrators have the credentials, education and training necessary to handle these situations? Are those in positions of trust able to hear complaints doing so without bias?

Not too long ago, Norwood had sanctioned hazing, i.e., the dummy carry and rent-a-kid (more derogatory terms used previously). Is there a systematic and cultural problem at NHS and is this incident a by-product of that previously acceptable behavior?

For this case....

I encourage everyone to let the justice system run it's course. Everyone - EVERYONE - is innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. This is a basic tenant of our rights as citizens and extends to everyone regardless of age or "who your family is" or what feud may be going on.

Before you speak against your neighbor, know the facts and try to avoid mudslinging. Please confront the person who passes judgement on ANYONE involved, whether it be it in line at grocery store or paying for gas.

A community such as Norwood exists because people are caring, understanding and judicious - not because people are spiteful.
mavsfan
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April 20, 2012
Well-said! I think many of us in this community are heartbroken by this incident, the divisions that have arisen, the things we've been forced to explain to our children, and the sense of sadness and uncertainty in our community...I can't imagine being in the position any of these parents are facing. I'm praying for all involved!!!
Farmerly
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April 19, 2012
I heard today that the boys who bullied are being charged with some very serious crimes. Perhaps the best thing that can come of this incidentm the ensuing police investigation, and the legal repercussions is that other kids will learn not to treat their peers so poorly. In the city where I live, a 14-year-old boy recently took his own life after being bullied. Bullying and the consequences thereof are VERY SERIOUS matters. Thank goodness the Denver P.D. are treating this Norwood School case that way as well.
abee
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April 27, 2012
Bullying is indeed VERY SERIOUS - let alone physically injuring someone. I hope the right thing is done in this case and the truth comes out. Hopefully, too, certain mindsets will change.
abee
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April 27, 2012
Bullying is a VERY SERIOUS problem that often leads to worse behavior. How could anyone question what the reporter is reporting if it is the truth. Why do people not want to know what really happened? It is amazing to me when I hear people getting angry at the news reporting the facts.