COLCHESTER — The father of a Bacon Academy student who lodged a sexual harassment complaint against several members of the Colchester football team said that his daughter has nowhere to attend school this fall.
Brian Hurlock, the father, released emails from interim Superintendent Timothy McDowell that show the district requesting that Hurlock sign a “Release and Settlement Agreement” before the district will allow his daughter to attend a nearby high school.
“My daughter was one of the students who reported the behavior that led to the football season getting canceled last year. The district continues to try to cover it up, and now the district is refusing to allow my daughter to transfer to another district, even if we pay for it, unless we sign an agreement that releases them from all liability. So everyone starts school tomorrow except my daughter,” wrote Hurlock in an Aug. 29 post on a local Facebook discussion group.
Hurlock says that his daughter does not feel safe attending local schools after her name was released to the families of the accused football players during the Title IX investigation. School officials told Hurlock in an email that they were obligated to release her name as part of the investigation.
“The federal regulations require that both the respondent and the complainant are listed on the letters that are sent. Unfortunately, this is the process that the district is required to follow,” former Director of Pupil Services and Special Education Kathleen Perry wrote in an email to Hurlock dated December 1, 2021.
According to the findings of the Colchester School District’s Title IX investigation, in November 2021, members of the boys freshman football team and girls cheerleading team and coaching staff were riding on a bus together after an away game in Waterford, when members of the football team made “sexually explicit” and “sexually violent” comments. One player mimicked sexual actions “by placing his hands on his football helmet and thrusting his hips repeatedly towards the helmet.”
According to the report, the football team members made comments that included “‘I would slap that bitch while I fuck her’ ‘let those girls give pleasure until they can’t breathe’ ‘oh, she’s not done,’ ‘go for another round,’ ‘I’m going to fuck [someone],’ ‘[if] your woman’s out of line, you’ll have to put her in her place’ and ‘kill her.’”
Those comments were not directed at any Colchester students, according to the findings of the investigation, although one football player did refer to one cheerleader as a “slut” and a “triche” — terms that imply sexual promiscuity.
The investigation was spurred by a complaint by Hurlock alleging sexual harassment against his daughter and other members of the cheerleading team by the football players.
A number of coaches at the school were placed on paid administrative leave in November as part of the investigation, and the remainder of the Fall 2021 football season was canceled. The head football coach later resigned, according to a Hartford Courant report.
After interviewing the students and reviewing video footage taken from the school bus camera and one of the football players’ cell phones, in February the district engaged the law firm Pullman & Comely to oversee the investigation.
A May 2 report concluded that while the behavior of the football players was “highly disturbing and inappropriate,” it did not constitute a violation of Title IX.
Hurlock said that after the targets of the investigation were informed that his daughter had filed the complaint, she was ostracized at school by the other students, and the subject of threats. He said that his daughter had to be privately tutored for the rest of the year in what he described as “a closet in the library.”
Even outside of school, Hurlock said, his daughter didn’t feel comfortable going out.
“She literally lives at the house and goes to tutoring and comes back to the house,” he said. “Whenever we go to the grocery store, she gets glared at, pointed at — like, ‘That’s the girl.’”
Hurlock said that in early August he made a formal request that the district send his daughter to another school.
Emails provided to CT Examiner show that the district administration agreed to send Hurlock’s daughter to school in nearby Griswold on the condition that Hurlock sign a “Release and Settlement Agreement.” When Hurlock asked what the terms were of the agreement, Dr. Timothy McDowell, the district’s interim superintendent, told Hurlock that he would send the document the next day, August 19.
According to Hurlock, he has yet to receive the agreement, despite that the school year started this week.
On August 24, he filed a lawsuit against five of the boys on the football team alleging infliction of emotional distress, including anxiety, depression, PTSD, and an inability to participate in extracurricular activities.
“Ultimately, what I would like to see happen is the school do the right thing,” he said. “We have tax paying money that goes to this school for my daughter to go here. If they cannot facilitate a safe and productive learning environment, then they need to facilitate a safe, happy, productive learning environment for her to go somewhere else.”
Reached by phone, McDowell told CT Examiner he was unable to comment on the matter.
Board of Education member Margo Gignac told CT Examiner that the board was not aware of the details of the investigation, saying that it was being addressed by the superintendent and the school administration.
Gignac also said that the football team was “making great strides” under the direction of their new coach.
“The new coach is phenomenal. He is very on top of things, very strict with the boys,” she said. “He’s definitely the right pick for a coach.”