Charter School Settles For $325K In Student S*xual Assault Case

The Vadnais Heights Academy for Sciences and Agriculture will pay $325,000 to a ninth-grade student who was s*xually harassed and attαcked by a teacher.

In a press statement, the Minnesota Department of Human Rights claimed that the district was “aware of the teacher’s inappropriate interactions and failed to prevent him from ultimately sexually harassing and assaulting the student.”

According to court documents, 29-year-old Michael Bradley Wahlstedt admitted guilt and was found guilty of third-degree criminal s*xual assault in 2020.

He was given a six-month pr!son term, 15 years of probation, and a three-year sentence that will not be served if he breaches his probation.

Under the Minnesota Human Rights Act, schools are mandated to prevent and handle s*xual harassment and assault.

Charter School Settles For $325K In Student Sexual Assault Case

An inquiry by the MDHR found that the harassment and assault occurred in 2019 and that staff members were aware of it but did nothing to stop it.

According to the agency, the principal “failed to launch an investigation” and did not communicate with the student’s parents or punish the teacher.

However, according to law enforcement and MDHR claims, Wahlstedt didn’t abide by the principal’s instructions and s*xually assaulted the student.

In reaction to the settlement, the school released the following statement:

“The Academy for Sciences & Agriculture has and will continue to follow all laws applying to it, including the Minnesota Human Rights Act. AFSA disagrees with the characterization of the investigation, the accusations of wrongdoing and conclusions drawn by the MDHR. The School takes all complaints of harassment or discrimination seriously, including investigating any allegations of wrongdoing and taking appropriate discipline.  AFSA supports all students, staff, parents, and community members. AFSA makes its top priority to create an educational environment that is safe and supportive for everyone.”

5 EYEWITNESS NEWS inquired about the aspect of the investigation with which AFSA disagrees but has not yet received a response.

According to a criminal complaint, when police spoke to the 15-year-old victim in July 2019, she admitted that she had been dαting one of her professors.

You can also take a look at the tweet provided by Star Tribune about Student Sexual Assault Case:

According to court records, Wahlstedt would pick her up in his own car, and the two engaged in s*xual activity at his house.

Wahlstedt and the victim are around nine years apart in age.

Police later discovered that Wahlstedt’s connections with the youngster in March 2019 prompted a warning from school officials after they observed him conversing with her “for long periods of time at lunch” and neglecting his supervision responsibilities.

According to the complaint, school administrators advised Wahlstedt that he “needed to set appropriate boundaries” with her, such as never leaving the door open when they needed to talk for class and never being alone.

The allegation refers to an additional instance in which Wahlstedt spent “lots of time” with two couples at the prom in April 2019, one of which included the victim.

Then, he was reminded of the earlier caution and advised that “the students needed to have their prom and teachers should be in the background.”

The agreement was reached after the MDHR found that the school’s failure to stop and deal with the harassment and assault constituted a violation of the state’s civil rights laws.

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The following actions are expected of the school as part of the settlement agreement:

  • Pay the victim $325,000.
  • Teach teachers, volunteers, the school board, the executive director, and other staff members about their responsibilities in fostering a learning environment free from s*xual harassment, physical assault, and prejudice.
  • For volunteers, staff, and students to report harassment and discrimination, a computerized system should be established.
  • Follow district policies by requesting that teachers report problematic behavior, opening investigations into allegations of harassment, assault, or discrimination, and notifying parents of the reported incidents.
  • Any allegations of s*xual harassment or discrimination against students, employees, parents, or volunteers should be reported to MDHR, along with any steps the district took to investigate the claims.

Rebecca Lucero, commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Human Rights, made the following comment:

“I am deeply grateful for the courage and strength of this student to bring forward her story of the sexual violence she faced at the hands of her teacher. Yet again, we are reminded that we are surrounded by survivors of sexual assault. To truly honor the courage of this student, schools must do everything possible to prevent sexual harassment and assault from occurring. This is not only the right thing to do but it’s also required under the law.”

This comment was also provided by the student who survived the assault:

“We, as students, are told our whole lives that school staff are the people we’re supposed to go to when we feel unsafe, but there was no safe place, and the result caused significant damage. I didn’t know that I was in a vulnerable position, but they had all the information to know. I wouldn’t wish what happened to me to happen to anyone else. It is not the victim’s responsibility to make the change, but if the change involves protecting yourself it is absolutely worth demanding something be done. Don’t let anyone intimidate you into thinking the harm that was done was not real.”

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