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Pueblo District 60 responds to teacher questions

By Scott Harrison
Published On: Nov 22 2013 09:48:38 PM CST

After declining comment for more than a week, Pueblo's school district responded to questions regarding former high school teacher Larisa Oringdulph.

PUEBLO, Colo. -

After more than a week of refusing to comment, Pueblo School District 60 on Friday responded to questions surrounding the investigation and resignation of South High teacher Larisa Oringdulph.

The district released a statement defending Principal Aaron Bravo's handling of the situation.  Here's the statement:

"Contrary to statements and implications in the media about alleged inaction by Mr. Aaron Bravo, principal, and the administration at South High School, both an internal and police investigation were in fact conducted in September and October, 2012.  Claims of inappropriate text messaging were made by a parent in September, 2012, but no evidence established any wrongdoing.  The same parent then complained to the Pueblo Police Department which conducted its own, independent incident investigation.  The conclusion by the Police Department was that there was no proof of any inappropriate actions.  Based upon information that we obtained during our inquiry at that time and since, we believe that criticism of how these investigations were handled is unjustified and we remain satisfied that Aaron Bravo, other District administrators, and the Police acted in a professional and conscientious manner.  The School District's highest priority is student safety.  While we always strive for continuous improvement, we believe that the procedures we have in place, as previously outlined, were appropriate and followed."

Oringdulph resigned two weeks ago after a monthlong police investigation found she had done nothing illegal despite being accused of improper relationships with students.  She admitted to kissing a student, and sending a seminude cellphone photo and text messages about sex to him.  Oringdulph resigned after the district placed her on paid administrative leave for nine days.

A student who wants to remain anonymous said she has heard of similar misconduct involving Oringdulph dating back to 2009, and that the teacher may have sent as many as 10 inappropriate photos to students.

"She walked around in the hall like she was another student -- flirting like she was a kid," said the student.  "She knew she was crossing the line."

KRDO NewsChannel 13 and the Pueblo Chieftain also are checking out a report that the district approved unemployment benefits for Oringdulph despite her resignation.  District spokesman Scott Jones said he couldn't comment on that.

However, Jones did comment on aspects of the district's code of conduct policy that seem to provide no specifics on what a teacher is not allowed to do with a student, let alone what discipline a teacher guilty of inappropriate conduct would receive.

"Teachers are being trained regarding their expectations for conduct," said Jones.  "There's a lot of training for them."

The district's staff policy was adopted in 1985.  Generally, it calls for suspension or termination if a teacher is found to have a prior conviction of a child-related crime.  It also bans teachers from hosting social functions where alcohol is served, and requires teachers to be aware of "legal responsibility for the safety and welfare of students."

"Policies are currently under review and being revised when necessary," Jones said.  "But in terms of (Oringdulph's) matter, they are appropriate."

Jones said the district, in refusing comment for so long, did not violate its policy to be fair and open with the media at all times.

"We feel we provide what we can, given that the situation remains a private personnel matter that limits what we can say," he said.

Rose Holloway, a school board member, said she has expressed to the district in two memos that she's frustrated about a lack of information about the situation.

"The district is keeping things from (board members) that they shouldn't," she said.  "I wasn't given any indication that things weren't handled properly.  If I had, I would have spoken sooner."

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