After a former Prairie Middle School teacher pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting or exploiting five girls he knew as students, the Cherry Creek School District announced a payment of $11.5 million …
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After a former Prairie Middle School teacher pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting or exploiting five girls he knew as students, the Cherry Creek School District announced a payment of $11.5 million to the victims in a districtwide letter to parents.
Brian Vasquez, 35, faced 37 counts for acts committed over a period of five years, according to a news release by the 18th Judicial District Attorney's Office. In August 2017, one of the victims and her parent reported Vasquez's actions to the Aurora Police Department, and officials discovered the four other victims during the ensuing investigation, the release said. The school sits at 12600 E. Jewell Ave. in west Aurora.
“We acknowledge that no amount of money can right the wrongs committed against these students by Mr. Vasquez,” wrote Scott Siegfried, district superintendent, in the letter to parents dated Sept. 24. “No student should ever suffer the injury and loss of innocence that these young women suffered.”
Vasquez, of Aurora, pleaded guilty on July 9, 2018, to three counts of sexual assault on a child by a person in a position of trust, one count of sexual exploitation of a child, one count of attempted sexual exploitation of a child and one count of internet sexual exploitation of child, according to the news release. He was sentenced to 40 years to life in prison Sept. 28, according to the DA's office. The girls were or had been his students, the release said.
Through a mediator, the school district reached the settlement with the victims, Siegfried's letter said. The letter listed several steps the district has taken to improve its safety procedures, including establishing a task force that reviewed the district's practices and procedures, strengthening mandatory reporting protocol and training its employees in mandatory reporting and how to identify signs of abuse.
“We worked closely with the District Attorney's Office and Department of Human Services to shape new protocols and training procedures,” the letter said.
Sungate and Blue Bench pilot programs, designed to give students and parents skills in recognizing and responding to inappropriate situations, also were implemented by the district, the letter added.
Siegfried personally apologized to each victim, said Abbe Smith, spokeswoman for the district.
The Vasquez case wasn't the only recent issue of sexual misconduct the district has faced. Broderick Lundie, 30, pleaded guilty in January to sexual exploitation of a child and sex assault, 10-year age difference, after his conduct with a Grandview High School student, according to another news release by the District Attorney's Office.
Lundie, a former security guard at the school, was arrested in May 2017 after Aurora police learned he was having a sexual relationship with the 16-year-old, the release said. Police found 16,000 deleted text messages on the victim's phone, it added. Grandview sits in southeast Aurora at 20500 E. Arapahoe Road, just outside of Centennial. Lundie was sentenced in March to a year in jail followed by eight years of Sex Offender Intensive Supervision Probation and must register as a sex offender.
On Sept. 24, Democratic state Sen. Rhonda Fields, who represents an area near Prairie Middle and including Grandview High, commented on the district's settlement with Vasquez's victims. “We entrust the safety of our children in the hands of educators, and parents need to know that any allegation of sexual assault will be reported to the appropriate authority, thoroughly investigated and handled with care,” Fields said. “I commend the Cherry Creek School District for confronting this issue and training school staff on proper protocols so that previous mistakes are not repeated.”
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