AURORA | Cherry Creek School Superintendent Harry Bull said in a letter to parents Friday that the school district went public with one recent school-related sex assault but not a different incident that occurred in May in order to protect a student victim from likely publicity over the case.
The undisclosed May sex assault involving a Grandview High School security guard came to light after a separate incident of student sex assault by a teacher at Prairie Middle School was made public last week.
School security guard Broderick Jerrod Lundie, 29, was arrested May 4 after allegations surfaced on social media regarding sexual assault and sexual exploitation of a student at Grandview.
Police and school officials announced the arrest of Brian Vasquez, a teacher at Prairie Middle School last Tuesday at a live-streamed press conference. Police say Vasquez may have sexually assaulted “multiple” victims at that school, and they appealed to the community for information.
In the Grandview case, Lundie has since been charged with sexual assault and exploitation. After news of Lundie’s court case became public, questions arose as to why Grandview students, staff and parents weren’t notified of the incident after his arrest. After three days of media reports and questions from the community this week, Bull addressed the issue in a letter sent Friday to Grandview students, faculty and parents.
District officials were unclear whether there have been similar incidents in Cherry Creek schools not made public. The Aurora Sentinel has filed open records requests with the school district and with the Colorado Department of Education for records on any school-related sex assaults in the district in the past three years.
Bull said he sent the letter because he wanted to “detail our reasoning in regards to both cases, and directly address concerns from the Grandview community about the timeliness and transparency of our responses.”
Bull said his decision in each case was shaped by the response of the Aurora Police Department and wanting to protect the safety, mental health and identity of the victims. In the case of Lundie, Aurora police concluded there was only one victim and they didn’t issue a press release after the arrest. Bull pointed to that lack of action by police as having influenced his decision not to have Cherry Creek issue its own statement.
“(The victim) is an individual who faced and continues to face the very real prospect of being re-victimized under the scrutiny of a full-blown media inquiry,” Bull said in the statement. “Mr. Lundie had been arrested and subsequently resigned; he was no longer an employee and he was absent from the school setting. There was no further risk to other students at the school.”
According to Lundie’s arrest affidavit, however, investigators say they spoke to at least one other Grandview student who had inappropriate contact with Lundie and possibly others.
Aurora police Acting Sgt. Diana Cooley, a spokeswoman for the department, said police don’t always issue a press release in sexual assault investigations like these, adding that their motivation is the investigation, not school community policy. In the Vasquez case at Prairie, she said police announced the investigation via a press conference and media release because they worried there could be other victims who had yet to come forward.
Cooley said that by the time Lundie was arrested, investigators did not believe there were other potential victims who had not come forward, so they did not go public to seek out information.
She said the department has a good working relationship with Cherry Creek schools, but they did not, and never would, tell the district whether they should or should not discuss a case like this one beyond asking district officials not to do anything that could jeopardize an ongoing investigation.
Bull also in a roundabout way addressed rumors on social media that the lack of an announcement about the arrest of Lundie was due to the fact that he is the son of Overland High School Principal Leon Lundie.
“In contrast to the rumors circulating on social media, the best efforts of the Aurora police found only one Grandview student connected with Lundie’s alleged crimes,” Bull said in the statement.
Abbe Smith, spokeswoman for Cherry Creek Schools District, said Aurora police handled the investigation and Leon Lundie was not involved in any decision about whether or not to announce the arrest of his son.
Bull said in the letter that there isn’t a “one size fits all” response to criminal acts like the ones allegedly perpetrated by Lundie and Vasquez.
“My compass in each of these incidents has been protecting our students in every possible way,” Bull said in the letter. “As always, we as a district will review our practices and bring forward our learnings from both of these situations. We will critique our actions and responses in an effort to improve, especially when it comes to ensuring the safety of our students.”
LETTER FROM CCSD SUPERINTENDENT HARRY BULL