Pupils fleeing retaliation at Colchester schools face legal trouble

COLCHESTER – The father of a Bacon Academy student who filed a sexual harassment complaint against several members of the Colchester soccer team says his daughter has nowhere to go to school this fall.

Father Brian Hurlock released emails from interim Superintendent Timothy McDowell that show the district is asking Hurlock to sign a release and settlement agreement before the district will allow his daughter to attend a nearby high school.

“My daughter was one of the students who reported the behavior that led to the suspension of the soccer season last year. The district continues to try to cover it up and now the district refuses to let my daughter transfer to another district, even if we pay for it, unless we sign a contract , which absolves them of any responsibility. So everyone starts school tomorrow except my daughter,” Hurlock wrote in an Aug. 29 post on a local Facebook group.

Hurlock says her daughter doesn’t feel safe attending local schools after her name was released to the families of the accused football players during the Title IX investigation. School officials told Hurlock in an email that they were required to release his name during the investigation.

“Federal regulations require that both the respondent and the complainant be listed in the letters sent. Unfortunately, this is a process the district must follow,” Kathleen Perry, former director of student services and special education, wrote in a Dec. 1, 2021, email to Hurlock.

The incident

The incident

In November 2021, members of the boys’ soccer team and the girls’ cheerleading squad and the coaching staff rode the same bus as members of the soccer team after a road game in Waterford, according to the findings of a Title IX investigation by the Colchester School District. made “sexually vulgar” and “sexually violent” comments. On the same subject : Prosecutors are preparing a lawsuit alleging that a South Carolina cheerleading coach sexually abused children for years. One player mimicked sexual activity by “putting his hands on the football helmet and thrusting his hips toward the helmet repeatedly.”

According to the report, members of the football team made comments that included the circular, “I’m going to fuck [someone],” “[if] your wife is out of line, you’ve got to put her in her place,” and “kill her.”

The comments were not directed at any Colchester students, according to the investigation, although one football player called one cheerleader a “slut” and a “cheek,” terms that suggest sexual misconduct.

The investigation was prompted by Hurlock’s complaint alleging that her daughter and other members of the cheerleading squad had been sexually harassed by football players.

Several of the school’s coaches were placed on paid administrative leave in November as part of the investigation, and the remainder of the fall 2021 football season was canceled. The head football coach later resigned, according to a Hartford Courant report.

After interviewing students and reviewing video footage taken from a school bus camera and one of the football players’ cell phones, in February the district hired the law firm Pullman & Came to observe the investigation.

The May 2 report concluded that while the football players’ conduct was “highly disturbing and inappropriate,” it did not constitute a Title IX violation.

Hurlock said that after the subjects of the investigation were told that her daughter had filed a complaint, she was ostracized and threatened by other students at school. She said her daughter had to become a private tutor for the rest of the year, which she described as “a closet in a library.”

Even outside of school, Hurlock said, her daughter didn’t feel comfortable going out.

“He literally lives in the house and goes to tutor and comes back to the house,” she said. “Every time we go to the grocery store, she’s being glared at, pointed at — like, ‘It’s a girl.’

Hurlock said in early August, she made a formal request for the district to send her daughter to another school.

Emails to the CT Examiner show the district agreed to send Hurlock’s daughter to nearby Griswold School on the condition that Hurlock sign a release and settlement agreement. When Hurlock asked what the terms of the contract were, the district’s interim superintendent, Dr. Timothy McDowell, told Hurlock he would send the document the next day, Aug. 19.

Hurlock said he has yet to receive a contract, despite the school year starting this week.

On Aug. 24, he filed a lawsuit against five boys on the football team, alleging emotional distress, including anxiety, depression, PTSD and the inability to participate in extracurricular activities.

“At the end of the day, I’d like the school to do the right thing,” he said. “We have tax-paying money that goes to this school for my daughter to go here. If they can’t create a safe, productive learning environment, they need to create a safe, happy, productive learning environment for her to go somewhere else.

Reached by phone, McDowell told the CT Examiner he could not comment on the matter.

Board of Education member Margo Gignac told the CT Examiner the board was not aware of the details of the investigation, saying it was being handled by the principal and school administration.

Gignac also said the soccer team is making great strides under its new coach.

“The new coach is phenomenal. He is very aware of things, very strict with the boys,” he said. “He is definitely the right choice for the coach.”

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