Seattle Public Schools releases report on Lafayette investigation

One Lafayette Elementary parent e-mailed us, puzzled about a PTA e-mail that arrived last night, addressing a situation that, as the note said, some had been following closely, and some knew nothing about. We hadn’t heard about it before the Seattle Schools Community Forum website published a report last week headlined “The Lafayette story.” As that site’s main writer Melissa Westbrook reported, it started with an accusation that a student had sexually harassed other students, and escalated into an accusation that the principal had mishandled the investigation. Now, the reason more are talking about it – including a Seattle Times [WSB partner] story published last night – is that the district has concluded its investigation, and says it found no evidence of wrongdoing. The resulting memo was provided to news organizations including WSB. It is the first independent corroboration we have had of this investigation. For those who would like to see it in its entirety, read on:

From: Apostle, Paul A
Sent: Tuesday, May 22, 2012 12:45 PM
To: Enfield, Susan A
Subject: Lafayette Investigation Memorandum


To: Susan Enfield
From: Paul Apostle
Date: May 22, 2012
Subject: Lafayette Investigation

Per your request, I have directed that an investigation be conducted into allegations that the Lafayette Principal, Jo Lute Ervin, did not properly address allegations of misconduct by a student and that the principal violated Board Policies 3207, Prohibition of Harassment, Intimidation and Bullying, and 3208, Sexual Harassment. The investigation is in response to a complaint filed on May 3, 2012, by two Lafayette parents.

The report of the District’s Employee and Labor Relations Investigator, Denise Williams-Saunders, is attached.

The report states that the student misconduct was promptly addressed by the classroom teachers and other staff involved. A parent of one of the students that witnessed one incident of inappropriate gestures on April 10, 2012 complained to the principal that the conduct had not been addressed and that his child had been subjected to sexual harassment.

In response the principal conducted an investigation, including interviewing the student and five student-witnesses on April 13, 2012. The principal then reported back to the complaining parents that her investigation confirmed the student had used inappropriate gestures, which had already been addressed by the classroom teacher, but did not confirm that the student had touched himself in a sexual manner. Ms. Williams-Saunder’s report states that the principal conducted the student interviews in private and asked the students to demonstrate the gestures used by the student. It was alleged that the principal had refused to allow a parent to sit in on the interview, but evidence indicates the principal was not aware the request was from the parent of the child being interviewed.

The report concludes that School Board Policies 3207 and 3208 were not violated.

Aurora Lora, Executive Director of Schools, met with the principal on April 25, 2012 and provided advice on ways to improve her response to sensitive allegations of student misconduct in the future. These include having another adult in the room whenever possible sensitive subjects are involved, not asking students to demonstrate the gestures used, informing parents before and after of such interviews, and providing better information to substitute teachers to inform them of problematic situations they may encounter.

You have asked that we take steps to assure a positive learning environment is maintained between now and the end of the school year. Deputy Superintendent Bob Boesche, Aurora Lora and I visited the school yesterday to assess that question. Aurora will meet with the entire staff today. We believe that staff is working hard and effectively to teach students. To assure this continues, we will provide additional support at the building as needed for the remaining four weeks of the school year.

Unrelated to this incident, the District announced in February that Ms. Lute Ervin would be leaving the school at the end of the school year. The hiring process for her replacement is nearly complete. No decision has been made for Ms. Lute Ervin’s new assignment next fall.

The District is planning mandatory training for school leaders for later this summer in identifying and investigating allegations of sexual misconduct, harassment and bullying.

The SSCF site reported that one of the parents involved had filed a report last week asking police to investigate. We were unable to get that report through the precinct but are seeking it through headquarters, to find out its status.

ADDED 8:20 AM: The Lafayette PTA e-mail we mentioned above, sent to a school-related list, alluded to a letter to Lafayette families from West Seattle executive director of schools Aurora Lora. PTA president Annie Higgins has provided WSB with a copy; she says a hard copy will go home with Lafayette students today. As you will read, it is similar in content to the district memo above:

May 22, 2012

Dear Lafayette families,

I want to let you know about an issue at Lafayette that has come to public attention and assure you that student safety and well-being is a top priority at Lafayette.

Issues of alleged student misconduct at Lafayette were raised in early April and addressed. The student was disciplined by the classroom teacher. After a complaint from two parents, the principal conducted an investigation and concluded that no further action was warranted.

Later, on May 3, two parents filed a formal complaint. In response, Dr. Susan Enfield asked Human Resources to conduct an investigation. The report states that student misconduct was promptly addressed by the classroom teachers and other staff involved. The report concludes that no Board policies were violated.

To ensure a positive learning environment is maintained between now and the end of the school year, on Monday, Interim Deputy Superintendent Bob Boesché, and Assistant Superintendent for Human Resources Paul Apostle and I visited Lafayette and on Tuesday, we spoke to the entire staff. To help finish the school year, the school district is providing Principal Jo Lute-Ervin with additional administrative assistance.

With four weeks until the end of the school year, I want to thank the Lafayette staff and community for continuing to ensure strong teaching and learning, despite these distractions. I should have news about a principal appointment for the 2012-13 school year later this week.

Please let me know if you have any questions.


Aurora Lora
Executive Director of Schools, West Seattle

37 Replies to "Seattle Public Schools releases report on Lafayette investigation"

  • trying to be fair May 23, 2012 (8:33 am)

    I’m sure it will not be long before the same group of commenters appear here as have appeared in the comments sections in the Save our Schools blog, in the comments section attached to the Seattle Times article, and on the playground of Lafayette. They will probably report all the salacious details of these events, based on what they know or have heard. I don’t doubt they believe they are doing the right thing. It seems, though, that every time the events are described by the angriest of these folks, the spin becomes a little more negative, the details a little more salacious. I caution everyone who reads this to take a step back and understand that we are dealing, in essence, with a game of telephone with critical links that include 3rd graders discussing matters they don’t understand, angry parents who (rightly) care very much about their children, and one person (Ms. Lute-Ervin) who I am sure feels like she is being viciously and unfairly attacked. The facts are not all that clear, and the manner in which those facts are described, and the agenda behind the description, can dramatically alter the impression that they leave. This is particularly true if your views are biased already and you are merely looking to have your bias confirmed. Please be careful with your comments and your reactions and your assumptions in this matter.

    • WSB May 23, 2012 (8:57 am)

      TTBF – We keep a fairly close rein on our comments. I have read all of the ones that followed the SSCF story until the site’s owners closed comments, and FWIW, many of them would not have made it through our review process/rules. This is not at all a criticism of that site’s owners – whom I respect greatly (and have said that before) for their tireless devotion (as unpaid volunteers!) to uncovering information in a variety of matters and holding the district accountable; our philosophy is that every site has the right to decide how they will handle comments and commenters, whether “anything goes” or “no, you can’t do that here” or somewhere inbetween. But we are definitely NOT “anything goes.” – TR

  • Rick May 23, 2012 (8:57 am)

    Comment sections-the new witch hunt/lynch mobs

  • Mrs. T May 23, 2012 (9:14 am)

    While I do find this story alarming, I was more alarmed by the way it was relayed to me as a parent. For some reason, I am on some email lists and not others, so the first and only email I got about this incident was the letter from the PTA which did not address what had happened at all. I would hope that if something like this happens again, that the information is released in a little more reasonable manner.

  • Seattlite May 23, 2012 (9:51 am)

    This situation smells really bad. Parents should be notified immediately of any actions that adversely affect their children while under the Seattle public school system’s watch. “Waiting for Superman” clearly demonstrated how the teachers/administrators school unions have no conscience when comes to shuffling bad teachers and administrators from one school to the next.

  • ad May 23, 2012 (10:05 am)

    “I caution everyone who reads this to take a step back and understand that we are dealing, in essence, with a game of telephone with critical links that include 3rd graders discussing matters they don’t understand, angry parents who (rightly) care very much about their children, and one person (Ms. Lute-Ervin) who I am sure feels like she is being viciously and unfairly attacked.” -tryingtobefair

    AMEN. Thank-you for that.

  • huh? May 23, 2012 (11:35 am)

    Except for that the principal told parents of the victims (yes, victims) how she investigated and demonstrated what she asked the kids the do. I believe those parents who heard it for themselves. TTBF, were you there?

    That is not telephone.

  • Westseattlemom May 23, 2012 (12:01 pm)

    I am a parent at Lafayette. A fresh start for 2012-2013 school year cannot come soon enough. The current principal has been uninvolved all year. This sadly does not surprise or shock me. The strong PTA and dedicated teachers at Lafayette, do not deserve to have their name dragged through the mud because the district placed an incapable principal at Lafayette.

  • bsmomma May 23, 2012 (12:56 pm)

    I was highly dissappointed on the communication of this incident. I only received the e-mail from the PTA. I was absolutely freaked out reading about assuring the safety of our kids and having no idea what was going on. I’m sure the situation could have been handled better and differently. Now Ms. Lute-Ervin knows what she can do to improve. There were no violations commited. The situation was resolved…….yes? No?? I guess I am missing why this made it to the Media?

  • Lafayette parent May 23, 2012 (1:03 pm)

    I have to agree with Mrs. T. I have a 3rd grader. I was told nothing more than something like, “an incident happened and it is over.” I find out now that some sort of sexual incident happened? I have a right to know EXACTLY what happened so I can make decisions regarding how to talk to my children, and even if I still want them enrolled at Lafayette.

  • carrieann May 23, 2012 (1:27 pm)

    “I was highly dissappointed on the communication of this incident. I only received the e-mail from the PTA. I was absolutely freaked out reading about assuring the safety of our kids and having no idea what was going on.”
    bsmomma – Ditto! I had a friend/fellow Lafayette parent send me a text message asking what was going on, saying that she’d received an incredibly unsettling yet confusing email from the PTA president, and wanted to know what it was about. I signed on, read my email, and was left with the same questions. It wasn’t until some Googling that we came upon the Seattle Times article, and then links to the posts on the Save Seattle Schools blog. Last night’s email was the first I’d heard of *any* of this, and I generally feel like I’m well-informed of the goings on there. Sounds like there’s more to it than the basics, and a rather unfortunate history with our principal, with new details being brought to light. Granted, I say this based on what I’ve read, and am always one to give people the benefit of the doubt vs grabbing my pitchfork and joining the mob.
    I just drove by the school, after stopping at the store, and there’s already at least one news van out front. We’ll see how it looks when school lets out in a couple of hours.

  • kayo May 23, 2012 (1:52 pm)

    I didn’t get either email and had to rely on other Lafayette parents to forward them to me. I guess I am not on the right email lists. I did know about the situation at least, but I wonder how many other parents were completely clueless and probably freaked out today like bsmomma. I feel strongly that the best course of action going forward is for Ms. lute-Ervin to step away for the remainder of the year. There is simply too much toxicity at this point and a clean slate would be best for all including her. Bring in a temporary leader for the rest of the year, hire a great new principal for the school, and put corrective actions in place at SPS so this type of incident is not mishandled in the future. Despite the challenges at the administrative level, my child has had a great year at Lafayette and learned a lot. It is a good school and the kids and teachers deserve better.

  • carrieann May 23, 2012 (2:24 pm)

    “Despite the challenges at the administrative level, my child has had a great year at Lafayette and learned a lot. It is a good school and the kids and teachers deserve better.”
    Well said, kayo, and I echo your sentiments.

  • bsmomma May 23, 2012 (2:47 pm)

    I agree that it would be in the best interest (but don’t know the possibility) of everyone involved if Ms. Lute-Ervin just started her summer early. Not placing blame on anyone, but the next 4 weeks probably won’t be fun for her. I was just up there at 2:00 and didn’t see any media. I hope they think of the kids and don’t come back at 3:30.

  • ttbf May 23, 2012 (3:20 pm)

    Seattle Public Schools sent an email out (supposedly) to all Lafayette parents. Unfortunately, for whatever reason, lots of parents didn’t receive the email. I didn’t receive it, but someone who did forwarded it to me. Obviously a snafu there. The email contained the whole report that the district HR department had conducted and a cover letter from Aurora Lora. I think the idea was that the note from the PTA president came out after the email from the district, so it shouldn’t have been so alarming/confusing.

  • Mary May 23, 2012 (3:52 pm)

    I also received an email from SPS first, then the letter from the PTA. I thought both were done very appropriately. if you didn’t get the original email from SPS, you should check with them to be sure they have your correct email address. I don’t think the PTA should be including any details in their letter–that is the job of SPS, not the PTA. SPS did the investigation and made the decisions, the PTA was simply being supportive of all the Lafayette kids and staff.

  • Parent May 23, 2012 (3:58 pm)

    I’m scratching my head about the whole situation.
    Several years ago, at a different elementary school in West Seattle, a couple young girls were using the tether-ball poles for, well, “pole dancing”. Some students reported it to the teacher, and the teacher privately asked witnesses for details before calling the girls’ parents. The girls involved were told not to do that anymore. I doubt any other parents were ever made aware of the event.
    Now I’m reading all of this, and it seems there’s some sort of consensus that the teacher should have called in the parents of the witnesses, the PTA, the entire school body, the news, the school board, conducted all interviews in public, and 100s of emails should have gone back and forth? Really?


  • bsmomma May 23, 2012 (4:12 pm)

    When it comes to this kind of stuff, a real letter on paper should have been sent home initially as well. Not everyone has a computer and technical glitches happen. I typically get the SPS e-mails. I agree that it’s not the PTA’s responsibilty. Annie responded quickly when I inquired. :)

  • a concerned parent May 23, 2012 (4:17 pm)

    Who was the police report filed against? The Principal?

  • carrieann May 23, 2012 (4:29 pm)

    bsmomma: In addition to the news van parked behind the school (you could see the tall camera pole sticking up beyond the fence of the playground) at least one reporter from Q13 was there when I picked up my daughter @ 3:30, standing on the corner of Cali/Lander, asking for parental input. I probably should’ve said, “No comment” and kept walking, but I tried to answer her questions to the best of my ability without adding to the rumor mill or angry mob forming.

  • I. Ponder May 23, 2012 (7:25 pm)

    “A parent of one of the students that witnessed one incident of inappropriate gestures on April 10, 2012 complained to the principal that the conduct had not been addressed and that his child had been subjected to sexual harassment.”

    What constituted sexual harassment in this case?

    With all the comments and press, I’ve learned nothing about the incident specifics. This is rumor-mongering. Lay it all out in black & white. Was the behavior so inappropriate it can’t be mentioned? When the facts are not presented, imagination fills a void. That’s where rumors come to life.

  • Carrie Ann May 23, 2012 (9:36 pm)

    I get what you’re saying, but it has been mentioned, in numerous places, I. Ponder. I don’t know how much more specific they can get beyond… “Ervin responded to reports that the student inappropriately touched himself and made noises at other students during a lunch recess last month.” – The Seattle Times // “In early April, a group of students from one class was lined up on the playground. One student, a boy, allegedly shut his eyes, then rubbed his crotch (on top of his clothes) and was moaning” — Save Seattle Schools blog

  • Anonymous May 23, 2012 (10:07 pm)

    I totally agree with “scratching my head..” Also, we are talking about 8 year olds. 8 YEAR OLDS AND SEXUAL HARASSMENT. Really? Say it out loud and see if it still resonates.

  • smokeycretin9 May 23, 2012 (10:24 pm)

    thank you Anonymous.

  • george May 23, 2012 (10:39 pm)

    Of course the school is going to say the investigation is closed with no wrongdoing. They’re trying to avoid a lawsuit. Why would a principal need additional training in a matter like this? I would think a capable principal would already know the appropriate steps and be a leader for the rest of the school they represent. And then it takes five weeks to send a memo out? That should have been communicated sooner, with or without the results of the investigation, with the premise that it was underway and the results would be conveyed appropriately. Let’s keep parents and teachers in the loop! “And the hits just keep on comin’.”

  • I. Ponder May 24, 2012 (8:52 am)

    Carrie Ann: Thanks for posting and answering my question. I raised 2 sons, one who went to Lafayette years ago. I’ve been around a lot of kids (and their parents) and have seen all kinds of behavior from both.

    My read on this is that the principal acted reasonably. There will always be parents who want more than their pound of flesh.

    What the child did was inappropriate but doesn’t rise to the level of sexual harassment. That’s ridiculous.

    There are kids who have teenage siblings they can pick up inappropriate behavior from. A few Lafayette students may be inner-city kids who pick up such behavior on the street unlike the overly insulated structured play raised Admiral neighborhood kids.

    Back in the day one of my son’s classmates was suspended for bringing a 1-inch Lego sword to school under the zero tolerance weapons rule.

    I’m so glad my kids are done with school and I don’t have to witness micromanagement by parents who should really be back in the work force where they previously got paid for this sort of micromanagement.

  • West Seattle Lifer May 24, 2012 (11:08 am)

    To Ponder; Your comments mirror my feelings to a “T”. I too have two older sons and one currently at Lafayette, thank goodness he is transferring to the new Stem program and we will no longer need to deal with the overly protective, intrusive, pedantic parents who have nothing better to do then to oversee the administration and teachers of what use to be a superb neighborhood school; way to go I hope you can all find a a perfect fit for your idealization of a perfect principal.
    P.S. Good luck Ms. Lute-Ervin. I hope your travels will take you to a school who will appreciate your style.

  • rico May 24, 2012 (12:27 pm)

    Hey West Seattle Lifer, are you referring to her investigative style, if so I highly doubt that any school would appreciate such a ridiculous method. And if she weren’t already employed by SPS I doubt she would find a job as principal anywhere.

    Your comments about the parents are spot on though, but certainly do not in any way justify what the principal did.

  • West Seattle Mom May 24, 2012 (12:31 pm)

    So glad my kids don’t go to that school.

  • george May 24, 2012 (1:25 pm)

    So somewhere in the middle, the truth lies. I think its agreed that “the gesture” was probably innapropriate for a 3rd grader and surrounding classmates. I don’t think we know the grades of the witnesses, be it older or younger.
    Then, an adult takes said witnesses into a private room with no one else and asks them to recreate the gesture, and it fact, demonstrates the gesture on herself when they decline. And this adult sees no need to have another witness present to observe, confirm, and support the child? This is “micromanaging”? Yes, if this was my first grader, or second grader, I wouuld be outraged that an adult in charge of the learning institution, who is a trained educator, is completely unaware of the issues this raises.

  • parent May 24, 2012 (1:51 pm)

    I think a double standard is here. If it were a MALE principle who did what she did with female and male students – holy lawsuit! Inappropriate is inappropriate, no matter the gender or age.

    Parents make or break a school. It seems that Lafayette is starting to crumble by it’s own doing.

  • bsmomma May 24, 2012 (2:20 pm)

    Knowing the details of the incident makes me wonder even more about how in goodness name did this get media attention, letters sent home with the entire school and a cluster muck of e-mails?! Good-ness. Good Luck to everyone involved. But hey! (SHINY!) they got a new principal!!!! Sooooooooo moving on…………

  • Parent May 24, 2012 (3:07 pm)

    “A few Lafayette students may be inner-city kids who pick up such behavior on the street ”
    Uh, really? Like there’s no inappropriate behavior to be seen on the street directly in front of Lafayette? There are plenty of local teens wearing their pants below their tush, showing their undies for all the world to see, walking right in front of Lafayette as they go from West Seattle High School to their nearby homes in the Admiral district.

  • I. Ponder May 24, 2012 (4:59 pm)


    Some of the third-graders whose parents are currently aghast at this inappropriate behavior, will end up to be saggypants gangsta wannabes because their parents are so uptight.

    Some of the third-graders currently perceived as miscreants will grow up to be model citizens.

    One lesson I learned is that it’s a small world and you can’t get away from people. Kids of over-protective parents may someday bring the supposed miscreant home as a best friend or boyfriend/girlfriend.

    Conversely, another thing I know is I’d NEVER be friends or acquaintances with some of these crazy parents if our kids hadn’t been classmates.

    I’m not involved in this current situation, but it’s possible the shoe fits.

  • yo May 24, 2012 (6:10 pm)

    @ I, Ponder
    Spot on.

  • tl May 30, 2012 (2:27 pm)

    I suppose I should really just let the situation go, but I am disturbed by what I see as a lack of response by the school and the school district to this situation. If you read the whole report sent out by the school district there are five different incidents with this same student. All five of them are mentioned in the Lafayette handbook as things that on the 1st offense can be addressed by suspension. I agree the school should use discretion in discipline and jumping to suspension right away is probably not the best approach. But after five offenses this student has not been suspended? What is going on? I would be in support of the school and the district being a little tougher on the students. If we continue to let our children get away with disrespectful behavior they will do it. It is up to the parents and the school to stop tolerating behaviors that are out of bounds. To me looking at a porn site during computer class and telling a teacher to “f” off are out of bounds and should not be tolerated. And bullying is on the rise in all schools and bullying behavior should also be addressed more quickly from my point of view. For reference both of my children go to Lafayette and we not effected by this event.

Sorry, comment time is over.