www.montereycountyweekly.com march 28-april 3, 2024 MONTEREY COUNTY WEEKLY 19 Amy Allen has seen the educational films that are meant to help give young people a script to follow in difficult situations. Even so, real life is more complicated. It was during her sophomore year at Carmel High School, and she was casually dating a freshman boy. They were hanging out at his house one night in the spring of 2022 when he asked her if he could record a video of her performing oral sex on him. “I knew it was wrong,” Allen says. “When you read books and watch movies they say, ‘Say no, when they ask.’ It’s different to be in the situation—I trust this person—it’s exactly like the videos say, but you don’t realize until it’s too late.” The next day, she asked him to delete the video, she says. He told her he would. But it quickly became evident to Allen that not only did he not delete it, he shared it around. Other students copied the video. People jeered at her. After they broke up, the boy taunted her with sexual comments and threw objects at her, like fruit from the cafeteria. Allen, now a senior nearing graduation, endured his behavior for roughly 10 months, from the end of her sophomore year through the first half of her junior year. The administration at Carmel High School knew what was happening to Allen. And over those 10 months, the boy’s behavior would grow more aggressive. He continued to leverage the video. In January of 2023, for example, he made slut-shaming, sexual comments to Allen on the school bus home to Carmel Valley, and threatened to release the video again. By then, he had also victimized at least one other girl. In this case, it was not a consensual video—he allegedly held a knife to her neck trying to force her to kiss him. Not only did administrators not intervene when the unwelcome sex tape first emerged—they instructed Allen and her family to keep it quiet, so they did, Allen and her family say. Finally, when Allen couldn’t bear the harassment, she reported it. This time, action was swift. Not only was the aggressor removed from shared spaces in the school, he faced felony charges in juvenile court. (Although the boy’s name is public in related court records, the Weekly is not publishing his name because juvenile court proceedings are confidential.) It was not the first time that a story like this would play out at Carmel High School—that consensually obtained videos or photos of girls nude or performing sexual acts would be shared without their permission. It was not the first time girls whose images were shared would say they were treated by school administrators not as victims but as perpetrators. But it was the first time the Carmel Unified School District superintendent made big public proclamations about misconduct. Those proclamations are what led the board of education to force the superintendent out, and the fallout has continued to shake CUSD. Since the 2022-23 school year, two principals, two assistant principals and a superintendent are gone; a former school board president resigned; and now a former assistant principal faces misdemeanor charges for failure to report suspected child abuse. “This is a very rare charge that we don’t frequently file,” Assistant District Attorney Lana Nassoura says. “This is an unusual circumstance where we felt that the failure was so egregious that it necessitated a filing.” It is unusual for the Monterey County District Attorney, but for many members of the Carmel Unified School District community, it is business as usual. Students, parents and former administrators interviewed for this story describe a culture of silence at the expense of student safety. And when top staff, including former superintendent Ted Knight, tried to change that culture, they ran into barriers. “Carmel Unified has, unfortunately, been plagued with a longstanding systemic issue of failure in both the reporting and investigation of employee, student and community complaints involving sexual harassment,” Knight wrote in a letter to the CUSD community on Feb. 7, 2023, amid the investigation at CHS. “When I was interviewing for this position two years ago, one of the concerns raised was the culture of silence and lack of seriousness and follow through, in reference to district staff and student concerns.” A month-and-a-half later, on March 31, the board placed Knight on leave. He would never return to the district. Knight was not the first CUSD superintendent to be released before his contract ended. In the nine years since Marvin Biasotti retired in 2015, following a 15-year tenure as superintendent, there have been six other leaders. Scott Laurence was recruited from Palo Alto in a national search and began the job in July 2015. He went on medical leave just five months later, and was paid $100,000 when he resigned in June 2016. Karen Hendricks served as interim superintendent until June 2017, when Barb Dill-Varga was recruited from the Chicago area (and received over $21,000 in moving expenses from CUSD). She agreed to resign in 2020, two years before her contract ended. In exchange, she was paid a year’s salary ($262,500) plus health insurance, and agreed to drop any claims against CUSD. (She is now the superintendent of Aromas-San Juan Unified School District in San Benito County.) Some former board members who’d helped hire Dill-Varga advocated in 2020 that the board rethink forcing her out, especially in a pandemic. “What the district needs most right now is continuity of strong leadership,” Mark After years of failures to address sexual misconduct, Carmel Unified School District tries to reset amid leadership turnover. By Sara Rubin CHS senior Amy Allen (pictured in shadow, below) suffered emotionally and academically after a sextape was released against her will her sophomore year. “It’s been long enough that I am not so weighed down by it anymore,” she says. The CUSD board of education usually meets in the Carmel Middle School library. From left to right: Karl Pallastrini, Anne-Marie Rosen, Sara Hinds, Seaberry Nachbar, Jason Remynse and Superintendent Sharon Ofek. “I do not feel safe at school.”