California parents in the dark after private school teacher arrested

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The arrest of a high school music teacher for allegations of sexual misconduct has led two private schools in Colorado and California to blame each other.

Da’Jon James, 28, was arrested in July by the Boulder County Sheriff’s Office in Colorado after four students and parents at Dawson Private School reported allegations of sexual misconduct, including inappropriate kissing on the forehead of pupils and touching.

Earlier this month, the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office announced that it had launched an investigation at Cate School in Carpinteria after a reporter on campus – a person legally required to report to authorities suspicion of child abuse – made similar allegations regarding James during his tenure at elite residential school.

In a letter sent to community members this week, George P. Moore, Principal of the Dawson School, said James’s hiring process “was in line with industry best practices and identical to the hiring of all Dawson employees “. This process, he said, included conversations with two Cate School employees who “did not mention any sexual misconduct or other inappropriate behavior at Cate School.”

“The background check also did not show any criminal history or other red flags,” Moore said.

Prior to starting at Dawson, James was director of vocal music at Cate School for six months starting in the fall of 2019. Ben Williams, director of the school at Cate, said James was fired in February 2020 .

In an email, Williams said that “two faculty members who are not authorized to speak on behalf of the Cate School were called by Dawson employees and they explicitly stated that they were not authorized to speak on behalf of the Cate School. speak on behalf of the school.

“As per standard practice, schools that have contacted those authorized to speak on Cate’s behalf on employee matters – the school principal or the deputy principal of the school – have been informed of the circumstances of the dismissal. of Mr. James, ”Williams said. “None of the schools that contacted Cate School officials offered Mr. James a job.”

It was not immediately clear when James was hired at Dawson. School officials did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

James was “removed from his teaching duties and fired from campus” on February 4, Moore said in his letter. Moore said he reported the allegations the next day to the Boulder County Child Protection Hotline.

That same month, deputies from the Boulder County Sheriff’s Office were contacted by the county child welfare agency about a possible sexual assault on a student by a teacher. The alleged abuses have reportedly started the previous month.

“All four students revealed that they were subjected to inappropriate language, sexually explicit images, prolonged hugs, inappropriate hugs, compliments and inappropriate kisses on the forehead. All of the alleged incidents occurred on school property during school hours, ”the sheriff’s office said.

After leaving Dawson City, James applied for a music job at Sun Valley Community School in Idaho. James did not put Dawson on his resume, according to Ben Pettit, principal of the Sun Valley school.

Pettit on April 2 called Williams at Cate School, who “indicated that Mr. James had been fired and was being investigated for potential boundary issues with the students,” Pettit said. “Which was more than enough for me to decide not to hire Mr. James.”

Boulder County MPs arrested James in July on two counts of sexual assault of a child by a person in a position of trust and one count of unlawful sexual contact.

The Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office announced its investigation earlier this month. This investigation is ongoing.

The family of one of the Colorado students have since filed a lawsuit against Dawson and James, according to the Boulder Daily Camera newspaper. The lawsuit alleges that James touched the girl inappropriately, slapped her in the face when she was unhappy with her vocal performance and began texting her.

In interviews with The Times, several Cate parents and students described what they called problematic behavior associated with James, who served as a “dorm parent,” including allegations of prolonged hugs and kisses on the couch. forehead.

A parent described an occasion where James allegedly made a sexual comment to his daughter and other girls. She said her daughter reported it to Cate administrators in November 2019.

The relative, who asked not to be identified, described his frustration upon reading Dawson’s letter. She asked “when or if the Cate school will ever admit responsibility for their mismanagement of this matter or if they will go out of their way to avoid legal liability.”

Parents, alumni and students have been waiting for months for Cate to release the findings of an internal investigation launched in October 2020, after former students raised allegations of “sexual misconduct involving body members faculty and students that occurred several decades ago “.

“I am outraged once again,” the parent said. “Once again we are sitting in the dark. … Does Dawson School cover its own butt? Does Cate cover their ass? Where is the truth ? I do not know.”


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