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KWHS

Students head back to Kelly Walsh High School after their lunch break on Dec. 12.  

The Natrona County School District “prevailed” in a federal civil rights investigation into how the officials handled a sexual violence-related incident at Kelly Walsh at least two years ago, an administrator said this week.

The probe into the district was launched in July 2016 after a complaint was filed, though it’s unclear when the incident in question occurred. Verba Echols, the district’s associate superintendent for human resources who said the district had prevailed, has declined to provide details beyond saying it did not involve rape.

Earlier this week, she said it happened at Kelly Walsh and was an “absolutely concerning” incident between students. Asked if the incident involved sexual assault or harassment, Echols said she didn’t have the information in front of her to speak definitively.

“The situation didn’t go away, we addressed it appropriately, but those kids went through something that is not, not something you’d want kids to go through. ... Did it turn physical? That part I don’t know,” she said. “Was it hurtful? Absolutely. Uncalled for? Absolutely.”

She said the investigation had closed earlier this fall and that she had called former Kelly Walsh Principal Brad Diller to “let that burden off of his shoulders.”

Typically in Title IX investigations, which are conducted by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights, an entity found deficient reaches an agreement with federal investigators to correct procedures or improve training. Echols said the district was told it needed to take no corrective action.

“However, whenever there’s a complaint filed, like anyone, you examine what could we do differently or better to ensure that No. 1, if someone is feeling this way, why?” she said.

Messages left for Office of Civil Rights and federal Education Department officials were not returned Thursday.

“You don’t want to take away that it was an incredible concern for those that filed the complaint,” Echols said. “But the good news is then the complainant has a level of assurance that outside of our mechanisms, there was an independent, thorough investigation that concluded that the work that was happening was in line with what was expected and promised and guaranteed.”

Echols said she couldn’t speak definitively about why the investigation took more than two years but said that difficulty setting up and preparing for discussions with federal investigators added to the timeline.

“It’s concerning, and it’s upsetting when students feel unsafe,” she said.

Follow education reporter Seth Klamann on Twitter @SethKlamann

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Education and Health Reporter

Seth Klamann joined the Star-Tribune in 2016 and covers education and health. A 2015 graduate of the University of Missouri and proud Kansas City native, Seth worked for newspapers in Milwaukee and Omaha before coming to Casper.

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