Despite being aware of rumors of misconduct, Helena Public Schools did not investigate allegations that a former teacher at Capital High School sexually assaulted a student.
In January, Rene Carter was charged with felony statutory rape and will go to trial in June. Court documents say she allegedly had repeated sexual intercourse with a minor student from February to June 2015.
The Independent Record submitted a public records request for documentation of any investigation into sexual harassment or sexual assault involving Carter. Helena Public Schools provided a statement saying there was no investigation and therefore no documents to provide.
The school district's superintendent, Jack Copps, who was not superintendent at the time of the alleged crime, previously said the district was aware of rumors involving the teacher and the student. The records request also asked for any correspondence between Capital High School Principal Brett Zanto, former Superintendent Kent Kultgen and Assistant Superintendent Greg Upham. But no form of correspondence was provided, meaning neither of the administrators discussed the rumors about Carter in an email or other written format.
The statement from Copps did show that Zanto reviewed some video footage of Carter and the student, but saw no misconduct or reason to conduct an investigation. It also includes a warning letter sent by Zanto to Carter for being absent from the classroom during work hours. Copps said there was no video footage of Carter leaving campus with the student.
“To this day we don’t know of evidence ... that would convince us we needed to proceed with removing her,” Copps said.
While Copps commented on behalf of the central office, Kultgen and Zanto did not return a phone call requesting comment.
Copps said the district contacted police after determining the district would not investigate. After the Independent Record requested a copy of the police report that led to the charges against Carter, Lewis and Clark County Attorney Leo Gallagher filed a request for declaratory judgment asking a judge to decide whether or not the police report will be released.