Three Elizabeth Middle School staff members are facing misdemeanor charges for failing to report suspected child abuse after they allegedly did not report student complaints about a teacher to law enforcement, the 18th Judicial District Attorney’s Office announced Thursday on X.
The three staff members — identified by the district attorney’s office as principal Brett Michel, assistant principal Jeff Sparrow, and counselor Shannon Paxton — had been on administrative leave for nearly a month while law enforcement and the Elizabeth School District investigated the complaints, the school district said in a news release Thursday.
The school district also announced it is ending the three staff members’ employment, pending approval by the district Board of Education at its Monday meeting.
“While we recognize these individuals’ many positive, past contributions to the school community, we have high expectations that our staff will follow legal expectations and board policies in keeping our students safe and investigating any and all reports of concerning behavior,” school district Superintendent Dan Snowberger said in the news release.
The teacher involved in the suspected child abuse, who has not been publicly identified or charged, is still on administrative leave, the district said.
On Sept. 26, Snowberger received calls from both Elizabeth Police Chief Jeff Engel and the 18th Judicial District Attorney’s Office about a complaint filed with law enforcement regarding a middle school teacher stemming from concerns the previous school year, according to a Nov. 15 school district news release.
Snowberger placed the teacher on leave the next morning.
School district officials had not been made aware of the concerns reported to school administrators before the law enforcement investigation, according to the news release.
Once law enforcement had finished its interviews, Snowberger began a district investigation and interviewed staff, students and parents.
Based on those interviews, the news release states, Snowberger “found a number of concerns involving staff adherence to district policies and law regarding the mandatory reporting requirement when receiving allegations that involved a child.”
Colorado is a mandatory reporting state, and the punishment for not reporting could be a fine of $750 and/or imprisonment of up to six months.
Michel, Sparrow and Paxton were placed on leave Nov. 8, and, following the announcement of the charges against them, will no longer be employed by the school district pending school board approval, according to the Thursday news release.
The school district said it will conduct its own investigation into the teacher in question after the 18th Judicial District’s criminal investigation is completed to determine if further action is required.
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