COLFAX, N.D. — Disturbing details of sodomy and sexual assault dating back to 2015 in the Richland 44 School District are described in an independent report that says school leaders failed to sufficiently respond to allegations of student hazing and sexual misconduct.
The district hired a Minneapolis law firm, Langevin Lentz, to investigate the matter and compile the findings in a report, which The Forum obtained Friday, April 6, through a public records request.
In the 46-page report, superintendent Tim Godfrey, high school principal Bruce Anderson and athletic director John Freeman — whose departures from the district were announced this week — claim to have not known before Jan. 17 that variations of something called the “rape game” had been occurring for years.
It was on Jan. 17 that two parents confronted Godfrey about the “rape game,” one stating that their child came home with “holes in his underwear.” The report also says at least two incidents of sexual misconduct were reported to Anderson and a coach but were not investigated.
Attempts to reach Godfrey, Anderson and Freeman by phone Friday were unsuccessful. Godfrey will resign and Anderson will retire at the end of the school year. Freeman is no longer with the district, and the terms of his departure have not been disclosed.
The report says hazing and sexual misconduct took place in locker rooms, on field trips and during physical education class and musical rehearsals. The report also says district policies on hazing and bullying are not accessible or easily understood and that staff training on these policies is insufficient.
The law firm’s review focused on events before Jan. 24, the date when news media began reporting on the misconduct investigation led by the Richland County Sheriff’s Office.
The investigation resulted in five male students collectively facing 13 misdemeanor counts of hazing, 11 misdemeanor counts of sexual assault, nine felony counts of felonious restraint and one felony count of terrorizing. The boys charged were referred to juvenile court. All of the victims were male, authorities said.
In addition to law enforcement investigating the allegations, Langevin Lentz conducted 56 interviews with school board members, administrators, teachers, coaches and parents.
“Some commented that ‘boys will be boys’…. And others commented that ‘this kind of stuff’ is common and ‘happens all over the country,'” the report states. “But no one we spoke to said or suggested that physical restraint, sexual assault, or unwanted touching is acceptable.”
One student athlete considered transferring schools after he reported last spring being held down by his teammates who then stuck their fingers in his butt. The student’s parent shared this with an assistant coach who didn’t raise the issue with the athletic director, principal or superintendent, according to the report.
Another student reported “screaming” when being “trapped, chased and caught and assaulted” by other students on multiple occasions during fall 2017 musical rehearsals.
Two parents reported that their children were restrained and poked in the butt through their clothes while staying in a hotel room during a field trip this school year. One instance involved using a toothbrush, according to the report.
A parent reported to Anderson in fall 2017 concerns about inappropriate locker room behavior involving male middle school students after physical education class. The parent said students were poking each other in the butt. Anderson spoke with the teacher and students, but the report says the school should have investigated further.
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