Former Fairview High students settle lawsuit against Boulder Valley School district over sexual assault allegations

The Boulder Valley Public School district has reached a settlement agreement with two former students in a federal civil rights lawsuit that alleged the district and a former school principal failed to respond when the women brought sexual assault complaints to school administrators.

Two former students sued the district last year alleging that the district knew about and failed to investigate claims that a popular student athlete at Fairview High school raped at least two other students but didn’t investigate and didn’t protect the students from being the subject of bullying and harrassment at school.

The suit alleged that Fairview High had an extensive history of cultivating a sexually hostile environment and failed to adequately train students, teachers and administrators on sexual assault and the federal law that is supposed to investigate sexual misconduct allegations. The students brought the lawsuit against the district under Title IX, the federal law that prohibits sex-based discrimination in public schools.

Over the past several years, there have been several students who have pressed charges against Fairview athletes in separate criminal cases. The former lacrosse player at the center of the federal lawsuit was sentenced in February to 90 days in jail for sexually assaulting three women.

In the federal lawsuit, the women charged that the school and its principal Don Stenstrud “repeatedly turned a blind eye to rampant sexual harassment and abuse.” When schools receive reports of harassment by one student against another, even if off campus, schools must investigate and prevent it from happening again.

Don Stenstrud was the principal at the school from 2004 to 2021. The students alleged in the complaint that the investigation documented Stensrud telling the Boulder Police Department in response to learning of a report of sexual assault against a Fairview athlete, that “girls are groupies” who “throw themselves” at the suspect.

In the response to the complaint, Stenstrud denied he said such things and denied allegations that parents have raised concerns since the 2016-2017 school year about a “toxic culture” and lack of response to sexual assault.

The details of the settlement aren’t public because it hasn’t been finalized. The lawsuit sought monetary damages. Both parties have until Oct. 31 to finalize it.

“We are aware of the filing that has been made in U.S. District Court and can confirm that an agreement has been reached in principle,” said Randy Barber, spokesperson for the Boulder Valley School District.  “Since the agreement currently remains in draft form, BVSD cannot provide further comment at this time.”