Kalispell Public Schools, Police Department Responding to Alleged Misconduct by Glacier High School Wrestlers

The school district and police department are investigating alleged hazing and sexual assault following reports filed on Jan. 9

By Denali Sagner
Glacier High School. Beacon file photo.

The Kalispell Police Department and Kalispell Public Schools are investigating alleged misconduct by members of the Glacier High School wrestling team following reports received by police and school district officials on Jan. 9. According to accounts by Glacier High School parents, and a cease and desist letter sent to Kalispell Public Schools officials, students are alleging instances of hazing and sexual assault by wrestling team members, largely on school buses and in hotel rooms during competition travel.

“On Jan. 9, we were made aware of alleged misconduct involving some of our students that reportedly took place last school year. As soon as we learned about this incident, we immediately started an internal investigation, which included reaching out to the students involved and their parents. At the same time, we learned a police investigation into the matter was underway,” Kalispell Public Schools Superintendent Micah Hill told the Beacon in a Jan. 26 statement.

“The high school, with the support of its Board and the district, have taken – and will continue to take – disciplinary action in line with our policies and Montana law,” Hill added.

Kalispell Police Department Investigations Capt. Ryan Bartholomew told the Beacon that he could not comment on specific details of the allegations, but said the department received a report of an alleged sexual assault on Jan. 9, and that the department will conduct at least 11 more interviews regarding the case.

“We have been made aware of allegations of misconduct involving some of our students and have responded swiftly and firmly,” Glacier High School Principal Brad Holloway stated in a Jan. 26 letter to parents. “We are cooperating fully with law enforcement and making sure our students have the support they need.”

NBC Montana on Jan. 25 published a cease and desist letter sent to Hill and Holloway by Kalispell attorney Michael Bliven on behalf of clients whose names were redacted. The letter alleged that a pattern of “sexual and other assaults have taken place against members of the Glacier High School wrestling team in the alleged name of ‘tradition’” and that “rather than investigating and stopping such assaults, there apparently has been a conspiracy to cover it up, and to retaliate against whistleblowers.” The Kalispell Public Schools, Glacier High School, head wrestling coach Ross Dankers, assistant coaches, and six accused student offenders, whose names were redacted, as well as parents and coaches involved in assaults, conspiracy, and retaliation for reporting, were listed as at-fault parties. 

Dankers declined to comment on the investigation.

The letter requested that Glacier High School report these incidents and claims to the Montana Department of Administration’s Risk Management and Tort Defense Division and to cooperate with ongoing investigations. Additionally, the letter demanded the preservation of evidence related to these incidents, including video footage taken on buses where assaults allegedly occurred, sexual assault and hazing training materials, internal communications concerning the events and personnel files of the named coaches.

The letter also requested that Dankers and Activities Director Mark Dennehy be suspended from active participation and oversight of the program and put on paid administrative leave pending investigation, and that the accused students be suspended from activities and athletic events until the investigation is complete.

In a statement to the Beacon, Montana Office of Public Instruction (OPI) spokesman Brian O’Leary said that OPI Superintendent Elsie Arntzen is aware of the alleged misconduct, having been contacted by parents in the district.

“OPI has contacted local school officials and their legal counsel to make them aware of the concerns the Superintendent has received. However, because the local investigations are ongoing and because this situation is in the early stages of being addressed at the local level, Superintendent Arntzen has no comment on the specific allegations,” O’Leary wrote.