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(Yi-Ke Peng/WOUB)

Athens City School Board Approves Search For Sexual Harassment Investigator

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ATHENS — Athens City Schools is moving forward with the search for an independent investigator amid allegations of a lack of response after a sexual assault complaint nearly 10 years ago.

Dr. Paul Grippa, the former principal who is accused of that lack of response, spoke out as much as he said he could on the matter during a vote to approve the search for an independent investigator. Grippa, now a member of the board of education, used the statement to abstain from the vote.

“The law protects confidentiality for students and former students, and it prevents me from commenting on a student case, even if it is to correct inaccuracies,” Grippa read from the prepared statement Thursday.

The investigation and comments come after a former student posted a petition accusing Grippa of not investigating her claims that fellow students had sexually assaulted her, and even asking her to apologize to those she accused, according to the petition page. She also claims Superintendent Tom Gibbs confirmed to her that documents from her report had been destroyed.

“I express concern that Dr. Grippa’s actions signify a violation (of) Athens City Schools Policy as I was unable to learn effectively every day of my secondary schooling career due to the nature of the case,” the woman said in the petition.

Gibbs declined to comment on the the petition’s mention of him, citing similar confidentiality laws to those Grippa mentioned in his statement.

The woman’s petition asks for the removal of Grippa from the board and the creation of a “student climate advisory board” to review policies and “sexual violence prevention mechanisms.” She does not say whether she will be taking any legal action against the district or Grippa.

Grippa said in his statement Thursday he welcomed the investigation, “the sooner the better,” and he looked forward to responding to it.

“People are making judgments and making a decision regarding my conduct without hearing from me. This concerns me, not only because of their uninformed rush to judgment, but also because no matter what the investigation finds, neither they nor anyone else will ever hear the details of my response, leaving a cloud over my name.”

The board unanimously approved the measure and now begins the process of finding the most appropriate person to look into the matter. Superintendent Gibbs said a timeline can’t be placed on the process at the moment.

“We want to find someone who is way outside the situation so they can get a really clear look at things,” Gibbs said after the meeting. “That will take time.”