U.S. Education Department join investigation of Catskills school district superintendent | #Education

ANDES — The federal Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights has opened an investigation into this small Delaware County school district and its superintendent after receiving a complaint from a parent.

The outside inquiry will run parallel to a separate investigation being undertaken by the district’s school board into the actions of Superintendent Robert Chakar, who is on administrative leave as the internal investigation moves towards the end of its third month.

The federal complaint, a copy of which was provided to the Times Union, alleges Chakar put his hand on a fifth grader’s shoulder while they were alone in a school foyer, and the student considered it unwelcome. The complaint is dated Feb. 14.

Following the complaint, other allegations have come out – including that Chakar commented on a young students “breast buds” to her mother  –  and that Chakar was pushed out as assistant vice-principal of a Connecticut school after an internal investigation revealed he habitually sexually harassed staff members and made inappropriate comments to girls at the middle school.

The parent who submitted the complaint to the OCR first attempted to file a complaint with the school’s Title XI coordinator, who is charged with investigating sexual harassment complaints, but found themselves stymied when the coordinator turned out to be Chakar himself.

The parent decided to file the OCR complaint and a complaint with the school board in mid-February, according to the parent’s attorney, Iliana Konidaris.

The district’s acting superintendent, Robert Darfler-Sweeny, sent a statement to the Times Union when contacted Monday morning.

“The district was recently made aware of the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights opening an investigation into Robert Chakar and the Andes School District,” according to the statement. “The district’s own investigation into complaints against Chakar is ongoing.”

Chakar remains on administrative leave, the statement concluded. Attempts to reach Chakar have been unsuccessful.

The Delaware County Sheriff’s Office opened an investigation into Chakar after the complaint about the unwelcome touching, but the investigation concluded in early May without criminal charges being filed, according to a letter sent to parents by the Andes School Board,

The OCR has more than 1,600 active investigations based on sex discrimination in schools and colleges, including 256 active investigations into sexual harassment.

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