For the second time in three months, a Pelican Rapids school employee has been placed on administrative leave following complaints that a coach inappropriately touched a player.
The school staff member, Shawn Gravalin, has denied the allegations.
He was placed on paid administrative leave from Dec. 11 to Jan. 17 during an internal school investigation.
Also investigating was the Pelican Rapids Police Department, which forwarded its report to the Otter Tail County Attorney’s office. The investigations were prompted by complaints that he inappropriately touched a player. He subsequently resigned from coaching girls basketball.
The county attorney’s office concluded there was insufficient evidence to warrant criminal charges. Initially, the school reinstated Gravalin after the administrative leave. However, school officials decided to reopen its internal investigation–once again placing Gravalin on administrative leave.
Pelican School Superintendent Randi Anderson declined to comment to the Pelican Press in detail on the case, citing the Data Practices Act–which affords protections to employees in pending cases. Anderson did confirm that Gravalin was again placed on leave, pending the school’s revived investigation.
The Pelican Rapids Police Department didn’t respond to an inquiry from the Pelican Press, regarding its role in the investigation.
The story was reported in depth in the Detroit Lakes Tribune and also on Forum Communications websites last week.
According to those press reports, Gravalin was also confronted with similar allegations when he was a coach in Hankinson, North Dakota, prior to 2008. Those complaints did not result in a criminal investigations.
Gravalin’s attorney Jade Rosenfeldt, of the Fargo-Moorhead based Vogel law firm, is adamantly denying wrongdoing on Gravalin’s part.
“He didn’t do anything…he fully participated with both the school and the criminal investigation,” said Rosenfeldt, who was contacted by the Pelican Rapids Press. She noted that a school surveillance captured the activity at basketball practice Dec. 10, and the Otter Tail County attorney’s office did not witness anything to support the criminal charge, said Rosenfeldt.
Other players and coaches were also interviewed. “Based on all the evidence, the county declined to charge…That leads me to believe there is nothing to corroborate,” said Rosenfeldt.
Gravalin has been on staff at the Pelican Rapids school for 11 years. He is a para-professional with the Pelican district.
He has had numerous positions, including special ed paraprofessional, study hall supervisor, gym supervisor and various boys and girls coaching assignments.
Gravalin also was summer manager of the Pelican Rapids city swimming pool for the 2017 and 2018 seasons, though it was announced after the 2018 summer that he would not be returning to manage the pool in 2019.
Though there appeared to be insufficient evidence to warrant further criminal investigation, Pelican school officials evidently believed the matter should be further probed at an internal level.
According to the Detroit Lakes and Forum reports, Gravalin’s brief return to work on Jan. 17 sparked protests from some students.
Gravalin’s attorney Rosenfeldt said she understands that allegations of this nature need to be investigated. But she also defended her client.
“But you can’t jump to conclusions,” said Rosenfeldt to the Press. “People who are trained to look at evidence declined to bring any charges…That should be the end of it. We cannot live in a world where anyone can make allegations and cost someone their livlihood before they have a chance to vindicate themselves.”
Attorney Rosenfeldt said that Gravalin is not likely to resign “in the midst of these allegations, so people can form their own opinions of what did or didn’t happen…by resigning, it leaves it open for interpretation.”
Further defending her client, Rosenfeldt said that the “devastation for Shawn, his family and his life is almost immeasurable…He would certainly ask that everyone refrain from jumping to conclusions.”