Fairview Principal Don Stensrud retires following investigation of lawsuit’s claims

Fairview High School Principal Don Stensrud will retire at the end of the year, months after the Boulder Valley School District launched an investigation into his actions in the wake of a lawsuit filed by two former students who said he failed to protect them from sexual harassment and abuse.

Stensrud, who has been on paid administrative leave since Aug. 10, chose to retire after the investigation concluded, said Randy Barber, a district spokesman. Barber said the results of the investigation would not be made public because of the pending lawsuit.

A letter announcing the retirement was sent Thursday night to students and their parents by officials from the Boulder Valley School District. Terry Gillach, who was appointed interim principal when Stensrud was placed on leave, will continue leading Fairview for the remainder of the 2021-2022 school year, the letter said.

The district will conduct a national search for a new principal, and district officials will meet with students and parents after the winter break to receive input on what qualities they want in a new principal.

Efforts Friday to reach Stensrud and his lawyer, David Beller, were unsuccessful.

Stensrud, who worked for the Boulder Valley School District for 22 years, has been under scrutiny for his actions since 2019, when Fairview’s former star quarterback Aidan Atkinson was accused of sexually assaulting multiple students.

Boulder police investigated Stensrud for obstructing their investigation into the sexual assault allegations after the principal stopped them from interviewing the quarterback.

Though police investigated Stensrud, the Boulder County district attorney declined to file charges. The DA’s office sent a letter to Stensrud’s lawyer, saying the principal’s actions harmed the criminal investigation but prosecutors did not believe they could prove he was guilty of obstruction in a criminal trial.

Atkinson was acquitted in April of sexual assault and attempted sexual assault in connection with a 2018 incident on a party bus. In May, he pleaded guilty to two counts of misdemeanor harassment as part of a plea deal for other charges that were connected to the case.

Stensrud was named as a defendant in a lawsuit brought earlier this year by two women who attended Fairview who claimed that leaders at the high school knew during the 2016-2017 school year that a lacrosse player was accused of raping at least two students, but failed to investigate and did not protect students from facing a hostile environment at school.

After the lawsuit was filed, the school district began investigating the accusations against Stensrud. The lawsuit, which also named the district as a defendant, is pending in U.S. District Court in Colorado.

The district is changing its policies regarding sexual harassment and assault as well as training faculty and staff on how to handle accusations. It also is improving its support structure for student victims, Barber said.




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