"The primary responsibility of the Lafayette School District is to provide for the safety of our students," the district's superintendent, Brent Stephens, wrote in an email explaining why they were putting a principal on administrative leave.
Yes, the first priority of a school district is the safety of the students.
Or at least it should be.
A pattern shows this is definitely not the case at San Ramon Valley Unified School District.
Stephens' email concerned a Lafayette district employee, Nicole Chaplan, who was an assistant principal at San Ramon Valley High School during the 2021-22 school year. While at SRVHS, Chaplan was assigned to the investigation of student complaints of inappropriate touching and comments by a teacher, Nicholas Moseby.
At the end of the school year, Chaplan was hired by the Lafayette district as a middle school principal and Moseby was moved to a SRVUSD middle school.
In September 2022, Moseby was arrested and charged with sexual harassment and molestation alleged by five different unidentified minors during his time as a cheer coach at a local training center and a teacher at SRVUSD.
Moseby is now awaiting a jury trial for three felony charges of lewd acts upon a child, a felony charge for sending harmful material to seduce a minor, two misdemeanor charges for child molestation and one for sexual battery.
Concerns about how the investigations into the student claims at SRVHS came about when, in preparation for Moseby's trial, prosecutors went looking for records of the investigations and they were "missing."
Several red flags were missed or ignored before his hiring -- prior arrests -- and after he was hired -- student complaints.
One of those red flags was that Chaplan and Moseby were friends before his hiring. They were well enough acquainted that Chaplan was a reference for Moseby on his application to SRVUSD.
When Stephens learned of the missing documents and Chaplan's role in the "investigations," he put Chaplan on leave pending an investigation by the Lafayette district. (Could it be that he didn't trust SRVUSD to conduct a thorough investigation?)
Kudos to Stephens for having his priorities in order and the integrity to place Chaplan on leave to investigate a situation that put student safety at risk at another district.
For Stephens, student safety came before protecting staff. It came before making sure it didn't besmirch "the district's reputation and image." It came before they "lawyered up."
SRVUSD has a history of putting the mental and physical safety of their students at risk -- and, sadly, that includes the death of a child -- while there are absolutely no consequences for the adults in charge of their safety.
SRVHS principal Whitney Cottrell is the person ultimately responsible for this document debacle. Cottrell put Chaplan in charge of "investigating" her friend; she obviously didn't ask to see any documentation from Chaplan.
After the truth came out about Moseby, the mother of one of the complainants wanted to see the documents and was told by Cottrell she wasn't privy to the records.
I asked SRVUSD Superintendent John Malloy if Cottrell would be placed on leave while the district conducts an investigation into the missing complaint investigation documents and Cottrell's questionable judgment of having Moseby's friend and professional reference conduct those investigations. And, if not, why?
Malloy responded, "The district conducted an internal investigation, and from the information that we have, we have determined not to place the employee on leave. I do want to confirm that we are methodically reviewing and improving our practices to train members of our administrative team regarding the handling of complaints and any subsequent investigations."
Of course she wouldn't be placed on leave.
Aaron Becker, a teacher at SRVHS, wasn't put on leave when a child died on his watch. Not one day! There wasn't even an investigation!
In May 2018, Ben Curry, a freshman at SRVHS, drowned in a physical education class in front of Becker. Security cameras caught him staring at his cell phone as Ben slipped under the water. Ben was left at the bottom of the pool for over an hour, found 10 minutes after the next class started.
Ben's older sister, Katrina Curry, addressed the school board that October and said, "Becker has been allowed to remain responsible for children's lives while he is still employed and actively teaching PE at SRVHS."
There were no consequences. Becker is still teaching PE and still the varsity football head coach!
I was told by the Curry family's attorney the school district called their law firm before they called for an ambulance.
During an interview in 2022, Ben's parents, Karen and Tom Curry, reiterated that Becker should have been disciplined.
Rick Schmitt, the superintendent at the time of Ben's death, sent Karen and Tom a letter that said, in part, "In reviewing this matter, it appeared that our policies and procedures regarding our physical education swim classes were either insufficient or were not sufficiently followed in a manner that would ensure student safety."
Malloy was asked for a comment for the 2022 interview, and he said he "met personally with the parents and have shared my sincere compassion regarding their tragic loss."
Karen said this is "such a misrepresentation of our meeting with him."
Lest we forget when Malloy himself put 28 California High School cheerleaders in harm's way physically and emotionally by not correcting a blatantly false social media post with an obviously doctored photo of the team's "mascot."
We need Malloy and everyone involved with children in SRVUSD to get their priorities straight.
Editor's note: Gina Channell Wilcox has been the president and publisher of Embarcadero Media Group's East Bay Division since 2006. Her "Around the Valley" column runs the first and third Fridays of the month.