Indictment outlines alleged inaction of Summit School District employees responding to sexual assault claims

One Summit School District employee investigating claims of inappropriate behavior reportedly told the middle school physical education teacher facing accusations they wanted to make sure he was 'absolutely protected.'

Summit Middle School is pictured on the afternoon of Thursday, Oct. 13, 2022. CMAS test scores from the 2021-2022 school year revealed a massive disparity between test performance of Summit Middle School English Language Learners and non-English Language Learners.
Tripp Fay/For Summit Daily News

Editor’s note: This story includes descriptions related to allegations of sexual assault.

The first student alleging inappropriate behavior by a Summit Middle School physical education teacher reportedly came forward in late September 2021. But court documents state that it wasn’t until a month later — after six more students came forward with allegations against Leonard Grams — that Summit School District employees reported the allegations to police.

Last November, Grams pleaded not guilty to five charges of sexual assault on a child, a Class 4 felony, and three charges of sexual assault on a child by a person in a position of trust, a Class 3 felony. The school district placed Grams on administrative leave Oct. 18, 2021. He submitted his resignation Aug. 31, 2022.

Summit Middle School teacher Leonard Grams, 61, was arrested Aug. 9 on several charges of sexual assault of a child.
Summit County Sheriff’s Office/Courtesy photo

While investigating the claims, one of the school district employees allegedly said they wanted to make sure Grams was “absolutely protected,” while another employee reportedly said if students tried again to raise allegations they would be “nipped pretty quick,” according to a grand jury indictment filed with the 5th Judicial District Court on Feb. 24. That indictment led prosecutors to file charges against three Summit School District employees and one former employee. Each defendant was charged with a single count of failure to report child abuse, a Class 3 misdemeanor.

The indictment of district employees comes about six months after police arrested Grams on Aug. 9, 2022. Summit Middle School Principal Greg Guevara, Summit Middle School counselor Maureen Flannagan, human resources specialist Amanda Southern and former human resources director Grant Schmidt are each facing a charge.

After the first student told Flannagan that Grams touched her breast during a “high five frenzy” in one of his classes, Flannagan had the student write a statement about what happened and provided that statement to Guevara on Sept. 30, 2021, according to the indictment.

Guevara initiated an inquiry, the court document states, and spoke with the student and Grams, who denied the allegations, as well as the student’s parents. According to the indictment, it was recommended to Guevara that the student be forensically interviewed, but the principal reportedly disregarded that recommendation and closed the investigation as inconclusive.

By mid-October of that year, two additional students had come forward, according to court records. One student alleged Grams lowered his hand to rest on her butt while spotting her on a climbing wall and touched her inappropriately again while checking her safety harness, according to the court document. The indictment states the student said Grams touched her “everywhere but the harness.”

The school district’s human resources department initiated an investigation — led by Schmidt and Southern — into the two additional students’ allegations on Oct. 18, 2021, according to the indictment. 

Grams continued to deny the allegations, and Schmidt and Southern did not believe any of the three students’ claims were credible, the court document states. After two days, the human resources department reportedly closed the investigation and found that Grams did nothing inappropriate.

According to the indictment, in their final conversation with Grams, Schmidt and Southern said the only reason they had opened an investigation is because it was the second time students had come forth with allegations.

Schmidt reportedly told Grams that one of his concerns is that once allegations become public, a person is assumed guilty.

“That’s a part of why we made the decision as we got into it: we don’t call the police right away, unless it’s so doggone obvious,” Schmidt said, according to the indictment. He also added, the document states, that if students raised allegations again they would be “nipped pretty quickly” and that he “can’t speak to immature children and their decision making skills.”

In the same conversation, Southern reportedly said she has shared experiences of “being accused of something that didn’t happen,” and told Grams they wanted to make sure he was “absolutely protected.”

Then, between Oct. 17 and Oct. 23, 2021, an additional three students came forward with allegations against Grams, according to the indictment. Guevara spoke to these students, the document states, one of whom alleged Grams would regularly look at her chest, play with her hair, rub her back and compliment her appearance, making her feel uncomfortable. Another student reportedly claimed Grams grazed his hand against her butt on one occasion and then again later while she was doing push-ups.

On Oct. 23 or Oct. 24, 2021, a seventh student alleging inappropriate behavior by Grams came forward to Flannagan, the indictment states. Finally, on Oct. 27, 2021, the school contacted law enforcement about the allegations, according to the court document.

Law enforcement reportedly requested a copy of Grams’ personnel file and found it did not include a copy of his letter of administrative leave or any information about the allegations by any of the seven students or the investigations into the claims. The indictment states Schmidt and Southern made conscious decisions not to contact law enforcement and “to protect and assist Mr. Grams by not properly documenting the allegations.”

At the time of the allegations, according to the court document, Guevara, Flannagan, Schmidt and Southern were all mandatory reporters who are required by law to immediately report claims of abuse to the Department of Human Services, law enforcement or the state’s child abuse reporting hotline.

Summit School District Superintendent Tony Byrd said in a letter to parents Tuesday that Guevara and Flannagan have been placed on administrative leave until further notice and added that the school is “making plans to support students” on Flannagan’s caseload.

Andrea Ridder, a spokesperson for the Summit School District, declined to answer an emailed question Wednesday about whether Southern had been placed on administrative leave as well.

“We are unable to comment on personnel matters as it pertains to Amanda Southern,” Ridder said.

Grams is scheduled to appear in Summit County District Court on Thursday for a motions hearing. His trial is scheduled to begin April 23. 

The first court date related to the case involving charges of failure to report child abuse is scheduled for April 19, according to the news release from the 5th Judicial District Attorney’s Office announcing those charges.

The District Attorney’s Office and the Summit County Sheriff’s Office are asking any other potential victims or anyone with information related to these cases to contact Detective Sergeant Mark Gafari at 970-423-8960, according to the release.

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