What do you do if the schoolyard bullies are actually in charge of the school?
An official complaint was recently made to the Board of Directors of Montessori Peaks Academy (MPA) by the concerned parents of a student who attended this Jeffco Colorado charter school. A nine year old student, attending third grade at MPA told her parents that a man in her classroom was staring at her all day long. The student revealed that the way he continuously stared at her made her feel very “uncomfortable and creepy.”
The student stated that the man (Ryan Dougherty) was watching her so intensely that when another student walked up to him to get help on classwork, the man didn’t even notice the child.
The concerned parent went with her daughter to explain to the student’s teacher (Jacquie Cartwright-Mills) what had happened the previous day. After hearing the student’s concerns, Jacquie (the teacher) crossed her arms and remarked, “Sorry about that. That’s too bad.”
The parent expressed to the charter school teacher that she wants to make sure that her daughter feels comfortable at school and that it’s a safe environment for her.
Jacquie continued that Mr. Dougherty had been in the class “watching.” When questioned about what she meant by watching, Jacquie changed her story to “volunteering.” When the parent expressed that she wanted a safe and comfortable environment for her child, the teacher responded that she should feel free to “leave her at home.”
After explaining the situation to Principal Char Weaver, Char defended her employee and attempted to justify her actions. MPA’s principal never suggested that Mr. Dougherty (the husband of Shiloh Sword-Dougherty, MPA Board’s President and Char’s direct supervisor) be removed from the classroom, instead suggesting that the student simply be moved to a different classroom, showing no empathy for the upset student.
Fortunately, the conversation with Jacquie was recorded on the parent’s cell phone. (The family started taking precautions to record conversations with MPA staff and Principal after repeated situations where MPA staff’s accounts differed from what the family experienced). The audio and transcript of this interaction are available here (~2 minutes). Preceding this “watching” incident, the parents raised concerns about the quality of education and professional misconduct of teachers and the principal following a violation of the family’s confidentiality. As a direct result of voicing their concerns, they believe they were repeatedly targeted, lied to, harassed, and retaliated against by MPA staff, principal, and the MPA Board of Directors.
Coincidentally, only days before this incident, Jacquie Cartwright-Mills was selected to serve on the MPA Board of Directors. The MPA Board, as represented by Vice President Pam Koshio and their attorney William Bethke, note their version of the incident where the 9 year old girl was “trying to get him to look at her,” and that the student “was ‘staring’ at adults and then accused Mr. Dougherty of initiating and maintaining this eye contact.”
Hardly an unbiased party, Mr. Bethke represented 65 charter schools or networks as of 2013. It is also worth noting that Mr. Bethke is the same attorney who was hired to produce the report which declared that the Twin Peaks charter school Principal did not violate the rights of Evan Young when the principal denied the student the opportunity to deliver a graduation speech and prematurely outed Young to his parents in the Spring of 2015.
In the classic version of blaming the victim, it appears to this author that the MPA Board and staff have implied that the girl was asking for it.