A Missoula prosecutor is asking a judge to deny the Frenchtown School District’s request for a copy of the criminal investigation file of teacher Troy Bashor, accused of molesting two students.
In its request filed last month, the district asked a judge to order the prosecutor’s office and sheriff’s office turn over copies of their investigation file regarding Bashor, now charged with both felony and misdemeanor counts of sexual assault for allegedly molesting two students.
Deputy County Attorney Brian Lowney, who is prosecuting Bashor, wrote in his response brief filed last week that the district's request should be denied. A hearing on the matter is scheduled for later this month.
Bashor — who continued to work while the case was under investigation — was placed on paid suspension in October after the first criminal charge was filed. He has pleaded not guilty to the misdemeanor, and will enter a plea on the newer felony charge next month.
In its request, the school district said it needed a copy of the criminal investigation to conduct its own internal investigation into Bashor’s actions. The district did a Title IX investigation at the start of last year that resulted in three days of unpaid suspension for Bashor. But the district's superintendent has since accused one of the girls who said she was molested of failing to fully take part in the school’s investigation.
While the district said it wants to investigate Bashor’s actions, it also faces a federal Title IX lawsuit from the family of one of the girls. The family alleges that even though the school district was warned years earlier about Bashor’s alleged conduct, it failed to protect female students from him.
In his response, Lowney wrote the school district's initial request for the investigation file didn’t delve into the legal balance between a person’s right to privacy and the public’s right to know under Montana law.
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Frenchtown School District "fails to offer any discussion of the privacy rights of the involved parties, beyond labeling them as insignificant,” Lowney wrote.
As both children and the victims in the case, Lowney said the two Frenchtown students should have the highest expectation of privacy available under the law.
“Minor victims of sexual abuse crimes must be assured that they can speak freely and confidentially with the professionals charged with investigating these offenses, without fear that the public’s right to know will expose their statements to a broader audience,” he wrote.
Lowney’s brief said the students in Bashor’s criminal case had faced repercussions from the broader Frenchtown community — more than 100 of whom showed up at a school board meeting last spring to support Bashor, with some saying the girls were lying — and that he is concerned that if witnesses are identified, they would face similar blowback.
The district interviewing and questioning those witnesses also could taint the criminal case, the prosecutor added.
“That case is still pending and the investigation into the Defendant’s criminal actions is ongoing,” Lowney wrote.