Multiple investigations underway after allegations of hazing at Glacier High School

  • In US
  • 2023-01-27 14:01:00Z
  • By Daily Inter Lake, Kalispell, Mont.

Jan. 27-Amid accusations of sexual assault inflicted on members of Glacier High School's wrestling team as part of hazing rituals, Kalispell Police and Kalispell Public Schools officials have confirmed separate investigations involving students in the district.

School officials, citing privacy concerns and pending litigation, offered few details about their investigation, which they said involved an incident that occurred during the 2021-22 academic year. In a statement issued Thursday, Superintendent Micah Hill said the "alleged misconduct" came to light Jan. 9.

"As soon as we learned about this incident, we immediately started an internal investigation, which included reaching out to the students involved and their parents. At the same time, we learned a police investigation into the matter was underway," he wrote. "The high school, with the support of its board and the district, have taken - and will continue to take - disciplinary action in line with our policies and Montana law."

Capt. Ryan Bartholomew of the Kalispell Police Department told the Inter Lake last week - and independently of the school district - that his agency was investigating allegations at the high school. Investigators were still interviewing people involved, he said at the time.

"We can't release any of the details, but we are looking into it," he said.

On Thursday, Bartholomew said the incident remained under investigation.

But a complaint written by attorney Michael Bliven of Bliven Law Firm and posted by NBC Montana this week alleged students suffered assaults, some sexual, while participating in the high school's wrestling program. The complaint accuses coaches and school officials of turning a blind eye to the assaults, which arose from "a culture and 'tradition' of hazing" at the high school.

"These assaults and other conduct have taken place through the negligence of Glacier High School and its activities director, wrestling coaching staff, and with the knowledge and consent, if not direction, or at least acquiescence of the head wrestling coach ...," the complaint reads.

Bliven could not be reached for comment. Hill confirmed receiving the complaint on Thursday.

"We've been issued a complaint, but a lawsuit has not been filed," the superintendent said.

Sue Corrigan, chair of the district's board of trustees, declined to offer details about the district's response.

"We are still gathering information on this incident and we can't comment on any pending litigation," she said. "We have to respect the privacy of everyone involved."

Although all school trustees were contacted in response to the allegations, just a handful - Corrigan included - responded to requests for comment. Trustee Lloyd Bondy referred inquiries to the superintendent.

Trustee Jack Fallon said board members received an email from one of the complaintents earlier in January. When he received an email from the superintendent that included an attachment from legal counsel with instructions on preserving information earlier this week, he saw it as "kind of a heads up, something is on the horizon."

Fallon said he also was aware of rumors circulating in the community.

"The difficulty with a part of this conversation is that, as a school board, we become the jury and judge on things like this," he said. "I don't know all the particulars. I've heard different things. I know there has been an investigation into it and that's going to all be presented [to us]."

As a trustee, he said his role was to wait on the results of the district administration's investigation before taking action.

"Part of the job of the administration is to investigate and then the school board has to hear the investigation, hear both sides - because all parties will be involved - and then ask questions and deliberate," he said.

Fallon said a special board of trustees meeting had been scheduled for 6 p.m., Monday. While the district's website does not yet list the event, Hill and Corrigan confirmed the special meeting, though the latter warned the board likely would enter executive session.

"As soon as we have information we can share, we will," Corrigan said.

In the meantime, Hill pledged to cooperate with law enforcement and asked residents to refrain from speculation. He wrote in a statement that district employees remained committed to supporting students.

"We are aware of public conversations, including media reports, that are spreading rumors and misinformation around this matter," he wrote. "This gossip is helpful to no one, most especially our students, and we ask our community to let the investigation move forward unimpeded."

News Editor Derrick Perkins can be reached at 758-4430.


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