Investigation of alleged assault on school bus handled locally

In February, Lincoln County School District No. 1 investigated the alleged sexual assault of a Kemmerer Junior Senior High School student athlete by other student athletes on a school bus.

On Feb. 8, a source told the Uinta County Herald, who informed the Gazette, that the alleged victim and the alleged victim’s family were upset that no action had yet been taken against the alleged perpetrators, who the source said are teammates of the alleged victim.

The Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office issued a release in February stating that they do not “comment on juvenile investigations and (are) in fact prohibited from confirming juvenile investigations.”

The Sheriff’s Office said that juvenile safety is always a priority, and that “there is nothing the Sheriff’s Office is currently investigating that would lead us to believe there is a concern of student safety regarding school travel or school sponsored activities.”

Uinta County Sheriff Doug Matthews said that even if these alleged incidents occurred in a neighboring county, Lincoln County has the jurisdiction to handle the charges.

“It is my understanding that these incidents are being handled by the Lincoln County Sheriff’s department,” Sheriff Matthews said.

Matthews said “we have to protect juveniles” when asked about the local department’s policy of not confirming investigations of incidents involving juveniles.

When asked for details about the alleged incidents, Lincoln County School District No. 1 superintendent Teresa Chaulk said she “really shouldn’t comment on student behavior.” In February, Chaulk referred to the alleged incidents as “inappropriate behavior.”

“We are sorry that this incident happened, and we want to move forward and are working to make sure it doesn’t happen again,” said Lincoln County School District No. 1 superintendent Teresa Chaulk.

Chauk confirmed that the alleged incidents happened on a school bus, and discussed the district’s practices as far as where adults should sit on the bus during school travel.

“Our practice has been to separate coaches amongst the students on the bus,” Chaulk said, “And in this instance, they were. Now instead of just a practice, it will be included in our activities handbook.

“If there are two coaches, we have the bus driver in the front, a coach in the middle of the bus and a coach in the back,” Chaulk continued. “If there are three coaches, we have one in front, one in middle and one in the back.” 

The Gazette’s initial source also said that law enforcement was involved in investigating the alleged incident that happened on school property. The source said that law enforcement had to explain to parents of the alleged perpetrators that the incidents could be considered sexual assault even though none of the students were fully nude.   

Chaulk said she appreciated the Sheriff’s statement on behalf of the district, and that the district concluded its investigation “way before the others did.”

“Everybody’s back in school, and we hope that this never happens again,” Chaulk said.

The school board held an executive session at the February meeting regarding student discipline, but it is unclear if it was related to this issue.

The board members took action on the disciplinary action after the meeting resumed, but did not say what the action was.

Chaulk said she echoed Sheriff Johnson’s statement that the district didn’t see a safety issue as far as school travel was concerned.

She said there was law enforcement from another county involved in investigating the alleged incidents, but they “didn’t follow through.”

“There may be the potential for another county to be involved,” Chaulk said. “I have no idea what law enforcement does. They can’t tell me because it’s a juvenile matter. It happened outside city limits, so it was with the sheriff’s department and not the Kemmerer or Diamondville police.”

This is not the first incident in Wyoming involving student athletes and extreme bullying or alleged sexual assault on a school bus.

Two former Riverton High School wrestlers were tried as adults and sentenced to 20 days in jail in Sept. 2018 after they attacked younger students on the bus as part of an “initiation ritual.”

The Gazette will continue to update this story.