Brighton Collegiate principal outlined teacher allegations in report

By Kevin Denke
Posted 12/1/09

     BRIGHTON — Alleged misconduct between a Brighton Collegiate High School teacher and a student included allegations of touching, a kiss and a movie theater meeting, according …

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Brighton Collegiate principal outlined teacher allegations in report


    BRIGHTON — Alleged misconduct between a Brighton Collegiate High School teacher and a student included allegations of touching, a kiss and a movie theater meeting, according to a report from the school’s principal to School District 27J administration.

    BCHS Principal Kirk Salmela prepared the 27 point report and sent it to 27J superintendent Rod Blunck Nov. 6. A copy of the report, obtained by the Brighton Standard Blade, details Salmela’s understanding of the events leading up to and following the Nov. 2 firing of teacher and coach David Lange. Lange, who was in his fourth year at the school, is not named in the report. But Brighton Collegiate officials confirmed last week he was the dismissed teacher.

    Among the details Salmela shared in the report were that two parents of students on the cross country team – one of whom is also a Brighton Collegiate High School board member – conducted an independent investigation of the teacher’s conduct. The parents confronted the teacher concerning his alleged inappropriate relationship with a student and what allegedly transpired between the teacher and student a month earlier.

    According to Salmela’s report, preliminary findings by Brighton Police School Resource Officer Francisco Alba included alleged inappropriate text messaging, non-intimate touching of the knee and waist of the student, a kiss and a meeting at a movie theater. The inappropriate text messaging, according to the report, allegedly included, “the teacher describes the female student’s physical appearance and scent as arousing.”

    “This is clearly improper and grounds for employee discipline, up to and through termination of employment,” Salmela’s report stated.

    BCHS board of education vice president David Gill reiterated the board does not believe the relationship was sexual to a small group of parents who attended the school’s Nov. 19 board meeting.

    “We have no reason to believe anything to do with this student was sexual in nature in any way, shape or form,” Gill said. “We have no reason to believe that. The fact that there might be some hearsay out there, we can’t do anything about what’s been out in the media.”

    According to the report, the parent-led investigation occured three weeks before Salmela became aware of it. That happened Oct. 23, the report said, when a student confided in a teacher about a “dynamic within the cross country team” that made her uncomfortable.

    “School officials were neither aware nor sanctioned this investigation,” Salmela reported. In fact, he did not learn of the investigation until after interviewing the teacher in whom the student had confided.

    Salmela confronted the teacher Oct. 30 – after a pair of snow days – about the parental investigation, and the teacher confirmed the intervention.

    “I expressed regret that I had to learn of the intervention in such a manner,” Salmela reported, adding that the teacher denied any wrongdoing or any kind of inappropriate conduct.”

    After meeting with the teacher, Salmela said, two parents walked into the classroom asking to speak with the teacher.

    “I recognized them as being the parents of a female member of the team … They were the parents of the student that the prior investigation and intervention centered upon,” the principal’s report said.

    Salmela’s report to Blunck states he deemed it significant the teacher refrained from sharing three critical pieces of information:

1. That the parent-led investigation was conducted, “no matter how vague the antecedent and despite the plausible deniability on the part of the teacher”;

2. That there was a non-school-sponsored intervention, whereby the findings of a parent-sponsored investigation were shared with the teacher-coach; and,

3. That there was a team meeting, whereby the teachers supposedly cleared the air, reset boundaries and the like.

    “The teacher’s neglect in sharing this with me raised a huge red flag,” Salmela told the district.

    After school Oct. 30, Salmela said he escorted the teacher out of the building and off of school property.

    “I related that evidence of improper text messaging was damaging and inexcusable. The teacher asked me about the prospects for a professional future, and the only word I could muster was ‘troubling,’” Salmela’s report said.

    The BCHS board of education voted in executive session Nov. 2 to terminate Lange.

    As of Monday afternoon, Lange, 39, had not been arrested. He politely declined comment when contacted by the Brighton Standard Blade Nov. 5.

    Meantime, Brighton police continued their work this week. Spokesman John Bradley was hesitant to put a time frame on when the investigation will be completed and when police will make a determination on the recommendation of charges.

    Bradley acknowledged public interest in the case but said police could not allow it to rush or compromise their investigation. He also downplayed inferences that the length of the investigation - nearly three weeks old - is indicative of the fact that police detectives are leaning one way or another toward possible criminal charges. He said it reflects the seriousness of the allegations and the department’s commitment to a thorough, complete investigation.

    The date of Salmela’s report – Nov. 6 – was the same day that he declined to meet with School District 27J attorney Janet Wyatt to discuss the incident. The decision became a basis of the 27J board of education’s Nov. 10 decision to assume temporary management of the school and prompted a subsequent legal injunction filed by BHCS legal counsel in Adams County District Court.

    Gill acknowledged last week he directed Salmela not to meet with Wyatt minus Brighton Collegiate’s attorney and said the school was within its legal rights.

    “If anybody other than the (27J) attorney would have come to the school, we would not have had a problem,” Gill said. “When they sent their attorney, we told 27J we also wanted our attorney present when they were questioning our principal. That’s all we said. They refused.

    “Nobody was denied access, and I resent heavily the fact that that was out there,” Gill added.

    Board members also pointed out that they believe the training that occurred in the wake of several high-profile incidents involving teachers over the past three years, worked and the situation was handled correctly.

Gill said the school’s past history and its no-tolerance policy toward teacher misconduct dictated the school’s swift response to the allegations.

    An Adams County District Court judge dismissed the BCHS lawsuit, and 27J took temporary management of the school Nov. 18. Brighton Collegiate students are on Thanksgiving break this week.

    One option for the BCHS board was to file a new suit with the state department of education. Instead, the board drafted a letter to 27J last week asking for mediation.

    There is precedence for BCHS, formerly Brighton Charter School, and 27J to sit down and talk via a mediator. In 2005, the state board of education remanded the two entities to work out funding disputes through mediation.

    “Under legal guidance, we are currently exploring all options that will enhance the safe environment for students at Brighton Collegiate High School,” Blunck said in response to Brighton Collegiate’s mediation request.


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