Detective Salvador Zuno said the alleged incident is considered a sexual assault. "Inappropriate contact is the same as sexual assault" if it is unwanted, he said.
Mr. Hartwig said the Portola Valley School District was contacted on Jan. 8 by the parent of the former student. District administrators immediately met with the parent and the now 19-year-old college student, who told a story "which was quite disturbing," Mr. Hartwig said.
The incident allegedly took place at Corte Madera and involved a male district employee, he said.
The employee was not a teacher and not someone who normally had contact with students; he retired from the school district several years ago, Mr. Hartwig said.
The allegations were reported to the Sheriff's Office and "we are cooperating fully with their preliminary investigation," the superintendent said.
He said the investigation is in "very preliminary stages," and the district is waiting to hear more from the Sheriff's Office.
"We can't really come to any conclusions right now until we hear more facts," he said. "We have no idea whether this was widespread or a single incident or not, and this is what we're counting on the (sheriff's investigators) to figure out."
In a message emailed to the district's current parents on Friday afternoon, Superintendent Hartwig said that "the school district is limited in what we can discuss publicly about this investigation." He said school leaders legally must protect the due process and confidentiality rights of everyone involved.
"Maintaining safe schools is our highest priority. We are working closely with law enforcement as they move forward with their investigation," he wrote.
"We know that there is heightened sensitivity and awareness in our society regarding sexual misconduct and sexual harassment concerns. It is up to us as individuals and institutions to elevate the discussion of this serious subject and to take timely and appropriate actions whenever allegations of unprofessional or inappropriate conduct are raised, especially when they relate to children and schools," Mr. Hartwig wrote.
The superintendent said part of the reason the district has gone public with the information while the investigation is still in a preliminary stage is because the Sheriff's Office released a report saying on Jan. 9 it had received a report of a rape at the school's address that had occurred on Aug. 1, 2007.
"There's nothing that we heard," Mr. Hartwig said, "that indicated anything even as remotely disturbing as rape."
Detective Zuno confirmed that the incident being investigated is not a rape case, but he said that the county's reporting system sometimes codes any sexual assault cases as "rape."
"No rape occurred," he said.
The incident is also now being considered an isolated incident because in the 10 years since it happened, no one else has come forward, Detective Zuno said.
"Right now, it's just an allegation."
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