ADAMS COUNTY, Colo. — A federal civil rights investigation has been launched at a local charter school with a history of civil rights complaints.
The Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights is investigating allegations of discrimination at Stargate School after parents complained their son had been repeatedly bullied because of his disability and sexually harassed by other students.
“They’d ask him, ‘Have you hit puberty? Do you have pubic hair? Do you like boys? Do you like girls?’” said Lycia Scott. “I can’t even count how many emails to the principal and counselors that we sent that this is happening.”
“He just looked miserable all the time,” said Justin Scott of his son.
The complaint details how his son would often clean his desk with hand sanitizer because he suffered from an auto-inflammatory disability.
Other students would tease him and spread rumors he had Ebola. The complaint also accuses other students of rubbing sanitizer in the boy’s eyes .
“(The boy) stopped wiping his desks in an attempt to stop the harassment, putting himself at risk,” the complaint says.
The Scotts said the harassment went on for years in various forms.
In the past two school years, the Stargate School has received eight complaints involving the Office for Civil Rights.
“In an overall effort to improve our school culture, Stargate has taken a proactive approach to support our students and community against discrimination, harassment, and retaliation,” said Michael Henderson, the new executive director of academics at Stargate School.
Henderson said the school is collaborating with the Office for Civil Rights and takes the latest complaint “extremely seriously.”
He said the school has also hired an outside agency to conduct an external audit of the school’s special education program to identify weaknesses and gaps. He claims the school hired a director of special populations, a new position that will have oversight over the education of students with special needs.
Henderson said the staff is also undergoing Title IX training.
“We begged for the district to take away the charter license, and it hasn’t happened,” said Lycia Scott.
This summer, the Adams12 5 Star Schools renewed the school’s charter for three years.
“We know that Stargate is taking steps to address previous concerns, and in the spirit of continuous improvement, they are working to be responsive to their community’s needs,” Christina Dahmen, a spokesperson for the district, wrote in an email.
“As Stargate’s authorizer, the district maintains certain high-level administrative and oversight functions. As such, the district has and will continue to ensure the charter is responsive to any requests for information from OCR. We will continue to monitor the charter school’s response.”
Lori Jane Gliha worked to report this story.