A ninth-grader who was s*xually harassed and attacked by a teacher at Vadnais Heights’ Academy of Sciences and Agriculture will receive $325,000 in damages from the school.
The district “was aware of the teacher’s inappropriate interactions and failed to prevent him from ultimately s*xually harassing and assaulting the student,” according to a press statement from the Minnesota Department of Human Rights.
Michael Bradley Wahlstedt, 29, pled guilty to third-degree criminal s*xual assault in 2020, according to court records. He received a prison term of six months and a probation term of 15 years, with an additional prison term of three years suspended pending probation compliance.
The Minnesota Human Rights Act mandates that schools take appropriate measures to eliminate s*xual harassment and violence. The MDHR found that the harassment and assault occurred in 2019, and that personnel knew about it but did nothing to stop it.
According to the reporting organization, the school leader “failed to launch an investigation” and did not contact the family of the affected student nor take any disciplinary action against the teacher.
Police and MDHR investigations indicate that Wahlstedt did not heed the principal’s request that he refrain from any further contact with the student and instead s*xually abused her.
This statement was released by the institution in light of the settlement:
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.
However, 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS has not yet received a response to its question on AFSA’s disagreement with the investigation’s characterization.
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The victim, a 15-year-old girl, told police in July 2019 that she and a teacher were having an intimate relationship, according to the criminal complaint.
Wahlstedt allegedly picked her up in his car and they had intercourse at his house, according to court documents. Wahlstedt is around nine years younger than the victim.
The tweet below verifies the news:
The Minnesota Department of Human Rights found that school staff violated Minnesota’s civil rights law by failing to prevent and address sexual harassment and assault. https://t.co/CX6g3wWdjb
— Star Tribune (@StarTribune) June 20, 2023
After Wahlstedt was observed talking to the student “for long periods of time at lunch” and neglecting his supervising responsibilities in March 2019, school administrators reportedly informed him about the situation. According to the lawsuit, school administrators advised Wahlstedt that he “needed to set appropriate boundaries” by not leaving her alone and leaving the door open during class discussions.
Wahlstedt is said to have spent “a lot of time” with two couples, including the victim, at the prom in April 2019. It was then that he was reminded of the earlier warning and informed that “the students needed to have their prom and teachers should be in the background.”
As a result of the school’s failure to prevent and handle the harassment and assault, the MDHR found that it had violated state civil rights law, leading to the settlement.
The following obligations are imposed on the institution by the terms of the settlement:
- Pay the victim $325,000.
- Train the school board, executive director, teachers, and volunteers on their role in creating a learning environment that is free from s*xual harassment, assault, and discrimination.
- Create a digital system for students, staff, and volunteers to report harassment and discrimination.
- Follow district policies by requiring teachers to report problematic behavior; launching investigations of any reports of harassment, assault, and discrimination; and informing parents of the reported harassment, assault, and discrimination.
- Report any complaints to MDHR in which students, staff, parents, or volunteers are accused of s*xual harassment or any other form of discrimination, including any action the district took to investigate the complaints.
The following was released by Rebecca Lucero, commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Human Rights.
“I am deeply grateful for the courage and strength of this student to bring forward her story of the s*xual violence she faced at the hands of her teacher. Yet again, we are reminded that we are surrounded by survivors of s*xual assault. To truly honor the courage of this student, schools must do everything possible to prevent s*xual harassment and assault from occurring. This is not only the right thing to do but it’s also required under the law.”
The student who had escaped the attack added this:
“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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