Steamboat school district hires ex-FBI agent to conduct investigation at high school; principal placed on paid leave
Steamboat Pilot & Today
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — A former FBI agent has been hired by the Steamboat Springs School District to investigate the culture at the high school related to the alleged mishandling of claims of sexual harassment made by student victims to the administration.
Jane Quimby, of Quimby and Associates based in Grand Junction, has been hired as the investigator. She was one of four vendors to submit proposals to the district and was selected with input from Advocates of Routt County Executive Director Lisel Petis and Steamboat Springs Police Chief Cory Christensen, who both said Quimby was their top choice.
District officials also announced Monday that Steamboat Springs High School Principal Kevin Taulman has been placed on paid administrative leave for the duration of the investigation.
“This should not be interpreted as any suggestion of wrongdoing but rather as being in his and the district’s best interest as the investigation proceeds,” Superintendent Brad Meeks said in a news release.
Steamboat Springs Middle School Principal Heidi Chapman-Hoy will serve as interim high school principal in addition to her current role while the investigation is ongoing.
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Quimby will be reporting directly to the district’s attorneys, Caplan & Earnest, and not to Meeks — another step the district is taking to strengthen the integrity of the investigation.
“To ensure complete impartiality, Dr. Meeks and the high school administration will not play a role in the investigation other than to comply with requests from the investigator,” said Board President Kelly Latterman.
She explained the structure was put in place to make sure students, families and staff felt comfortable coming forward with information and cooperating with the investigation.
“Sharing relevant information and answering questions about your experiences will add tremendous value to this process,” Latterman said. “If we do not know what is broken, we cannot fix it.
“As a board, we are committed to doing whatever it takes to do better by our students and be a leader in school culture and climate,” Latterman added.
Meeks has described Quimby as “uniquely qualified” to conduct the investigation. She not only served as a special agent with the FBI for 20 years, including time as an undercover agent, but also is an attorney and a former high school and college teacher. She has experience working with victims of trauma and has conducted similar types of investigations like the one Steamboat is seeking in K-12 and higher education settings.
“She comes highly recommended with lots of experience in this particular area,” said Chief Christensen. “Her approach was very personalized to the investigation of the school district.”
Petis said Quimby’s experience and background helped her rise to the top of the four proposals the district received.
“She not only was an FBI investigator, who knows best techniques for investigations, but also previously served as a school teacher, so she understands schools and school culture,” Petis said. “She also has done several investigations and consultations of school issues, including culture issues. And she had a strong reference from the Title IX investigator at CMC (Colorado Mountain College).”
In fall 2018, Quimby led an investigation into an administrative shakeup and reorganization in the Grand Junction School District that led to more than $1 million in salaries and top-level positions added to the district’s payroll. Based on information contained in Quimby’s 12-page report, the superintendent was eventually ousted by the school board.
While working for the FBI, Quimby gained notoriety when she helped solve a cold case involving domestic terrorism at Vail Ski Resort that occurred in 1998. After the incident, six people, all members of an environmental extremist group known as The Family, were apprehended and charged with setting fire to eight different structures on Vail Mountain. The mastermind of the plot wasn’t arrested until 2005 as part of a national sting referred to as the “Takedown,” which Quimby led. At the time, William “Avalon” Rodgers was America’s most wanted eco-terrorist.
Christensen, who sits on the Colorado Police Officer Standards and Training Program board with Quimby, said the police department will not be actively involved in the investigation beyond answering any requests Quimby might have.
“The only thing I’ve done is make the police department available to Jane in anyway she needs,” Christensen said. “I’ve provided contact information for the school resource officer, so she can interview him. I’ve promised her complete cooperation.”
Petis said Advocates is compiling a list of names of those people who have spoken to the nonprofit about the situation at the high school. Once Advocates has permission to release the names, they’ll provide those to Quimby.
“Jane will be conducting all one-on-one interviews, and we will not be a part of that process,” Petis said.
Advocates will be assisting with questions for a survey that will be sent to parents, students and staff, and the organization may also help set up focus groups, which Quimby would lead.
“Lastly, we will be working closely with Jane on potential solutions for the school district to implement, based on the findings of the investigation,” Petis said.
According to Meeks, Quimby and Associates has been provided access to communicate directly with high school families and staff during the investigation.
In a letter to parents, district officials said no students under the age of 18 would be interviewed without parental permission.
Anyone who wishes to provide information to Quimby & Associates relevant to the investigation may contact them directly by phone at 970-986-9494 or email email@example.com. Reports of sexual assault should be made directly to the Steamboat Springs Police Department.
A stated priority of Meeks and the school board has been to handle sensitive and confidential information properly but to make the process as open and transparent as possible. At the Jan. 27 school board meeting, Meeks said the public can expect regular updates on the investigation as it progresses.
The district is hoping the investigation will be completed by the end of March.