Magazine News Volume 70, Issue 1

Allegations Substantiated by Independent Investigator

After an outcry on social media and a rally at Las Lomas, the Acalanes Union High School District hired an independent investigator to investigate allegations of sexual harassment and racism against students at Las Lomas. The AUHSD school district hired an investigator on June 24, after the Las Lomas Reform rally that occurred on June 23rd.

The investigation lasted until Friday, September 18, when Superintendent John Nickerson wrote to Las Lomas staff about its findings, which were that “the investigation found no crimes or reporting violations, but there were notable conclusions that will result in procedural and personnel action, system changes, and additional training.” He then went on to say how there were many complaints made against teachers, and that “with one exception, the allegations of harassment and discrimination against Las Lomas staff could not be substantiated.” It was never specified which teacher had the substantiated allegation, and the email that Nickerson sent to parents also did not specify.

The following Monday morning, September 21, Principal Tiffany Benson sent an email to drama and stagecraft students, and another to their parents and guardians, revealing that Taron Hensley was put on leave, and would be “out for the foreseeable future,” but didn’t confirm that it was due to an allegation substantiated in the report. However, a member of the Las Lomas administration later confirmed with The Page in an interview that Hensley was put on leave because of the substantiated allegation from the investigation. They also confirmed that they “are working on getting a long-term replacement…but in the short-term we are working with a substitute.”

The allegations of sexual harassment and others started in mid-June when some anonymous individuals created an Instagram account called laslomasreform, which made a post asking for Las Lomas students and alumni to anonymously submit their “testimonials” of experiences they had at Las Lomas regarding racism and possible harassment. The anonymous website soon started posting dozens of accounts of alleged racism, misogyny, mistreatment of students with mental health issues, and many others. Las Lomas Reform organized a rally outside of the school on June 23, which lasted from 5:00 P.M. to 8:30 P.M.

Although Benson wrote that Hensley would be gone for “the foreseeable future” in the email to drama and stagecraft students, he hasn’t been dismissed. A source in administration reported that while they couldn’t comment on ongoing personnel matters, it was unlikely that Hensley would return in the near future. Neither email revealed what was going to happen while Hensley remained on leave. Superintendent John Nickerson could not be reached for comment and Associate Superintendent Amy McNamara declined to comment, telling The Page that she “[does] not comment on personnel issues and will not be offering any interviews on this subject.”

In an interview with The Page, Las Lomas Reform said, “We cannot predict exactly how AUHSD will handle Hensley’s employment, but…unless Hensley gets his teaching credentials revoked, he can easily teach again in the future.”

Tuesday, September 22, was the first day of classes without Hensley. A substitute named Mr. Modelevsky took over and students alleged that he was defending Hensley. Students sent comments to Las Lomas Reform, who began posting them on their Instagram story Tuesday afternoon. Las Lomas Reform sent an email to Benson, who responded to them and said in an email sent that afternoon that “[she] will begin an investigation of your claims regarding Mr. Modelevsky’s comments in class.” An anonymous source from administration confirmed that the next day, Ron Abrew, the sports medicine teacher at Las Lomas, replaced Modelevsky as the short-term drama and stagecraft substitute.

“Aside from having Zoom classes with someone sitting in, muted and with no video, [class] was normal,” said senior Jazmin Barnes, a drama and stagecraft student and treasurer for the drama class’ council, about classes before Hensley was put on leave in an interview with The Page. “Hensley mentioned the ‘stuff with LL Reform’ once, but other than that, everyone was silent about the subject in class,” she added.During the investigation by the independent investigator, from the start of the school year to September 18, an extra staff member from Las Lomas sat in on the drama and stagecraft class’ Zoom classes. Since Hensley was put on leave, the drama department has been in “disarray.” Barnes added, “Hensley spearheaded most projects and taught almost all classes, so now the department is scrambling to find our place, production-wise. The advanced drama class…elected a Drama Council, the group of 5-7 students who represent the class…when making decisions… After discussing with Principal Benson and our substitute, we are optimistic that we can come to a compromise of sorts to make the advanced class as democratic as it once was, as well as maintain a welcoming environment and culture for the future department.”