Five boys, between ages 14 and 17, face possible criminal charges for allegedly harassing and improperly touching two female students at Basalt High School, according to police.
Four of the boys will be given a summons to appear in court to face a possible charge of unlawful sexual contact, said Basalt Police Chief Greg Knott. All five boys will also receive a summons to appear for the possible filing of a charge of harassment, he said. Both charges are misdemeanors.
The youth will be required to appear in Pitkin County District Court with a parent or guardian, Knott said. Three of the boys are 17 years of age, one is 16 and another is 14, he said. All five boys are students at Basalt High School.
Knott said the investigation showed the alleged harassment and unlawful sexual contact occurred at the high school throughout this school year but apparently wasn’t reported by the girls. An administrator saw the boys inappropriately touching a student in a classroom and heard them saying inappropriate things on Nov. 5, according to Knott.
School officials reported the incident to Basalt Police Department School Resource Officer Brian Lemke, and he undertook an investigation immediately. He learned that another female student was allegedly the target of the same type of behavior, Knott said. The alleged victims are 17 and 15, he said.
“There was no physical injury but there’s emotional distress,” Knott said.
The department turned over the results of the investigation to the Pitkin County District Attorney’s Office and conferred with a prosecutor on whether to proceed with summonses, as is standard after an investigation. The department was advised Monday to issue the summonses to the boys, he said.
Knott said it was his understanding that the boys are facing disciplinary action from the Roaring Fork School District. “The school has suspended those males,” Knott wrote in a report to the town manager and Town Council.
Basalt High School Principal David Schmid said he couldn’t discuss whetherthe boys are currently in school or if any possible disciplinary action.
In general, he said, any time a student or parent believes there is an unsafe situation at the school, they should bring it to the attention of the administration, and it will be dealt with it as quickly as possible.
“That’s our No. 1 commitment, that they feel safe,” Schmid said of students.
He was unaware of any complaint being filed by the two alleged victims about harassment or improper contact earlier in the school year. “As soon as we discovered it, we did something about it,” Schmid said.
The school takes issues of harassment seriously and Schmid said he “guarantees” that action will be taken to stop it when administrators and teachers know about it. “We’ve just got to make sure our kids feel safe,” he said.
Parents of students in the high school haven’t been notified via letter or email that the Nov. 5 incident occurred, he said.
The Roaring Fork School District’s policies include five pages on sexual harassment. It spells out what constitutes harassment, how the district would respond to a complaint and how it would try to rectify the situation. Under a heading titled, “District Commitment,” it says, “The district shall investigate all indications, informal reports and formal grievances of sexual harassment by students, staff or third parties and appropriate corrective action shall be taken. Corrective action includes taking necessary steps to end the harassment, to make the harassed student or staff member whole by restoring lost educational or work opportunities, to prevent harassment from recurring and to prevent retaliation against anyone who reports sexual harassment or participates in a harassment investigation.”