By Joel Warner
By Michael Roberts
By Alan Prendergast
By Michael Roberts
By Michael Roberts
By Amber Taufen
By Patricia Calhoun
By William Breathes
part 2 of 2
But it was a certain group of sixth-grade boys who gave Trost the most trouble. On January 12, a week after the West Side Story incident, Trost was once again having a hard time making himself heard.
One of the loudest kids was a boy he'd been warned about, Alex, who was leading his friends in what seemed to be a screaming contest. Exasperated from trying to yell over the din, Trost pulled Alex aside and told him to get a handle on his "out of control" behavior.
Trost's lecture had little effect. The next day Alex, his friend Eric and several other boys were back at it. Trost demanded that Alex sit down and stop "bouncing off the walls." Alex quieted down. He stood in back for the rest of the period, refusing to participate and following his teacher's every move with a cold stare.
The boy's rowdiness had angered him, but Trost found this new response chilling. There was a lot of anger in that stare, and he wondered at its source. This kid is over the edge, he thought. After class Trost saw Alex's faculty advisor in the hallway and told her about the incident.
"You better go talk to Buffy and get this documented," the advisor said, "before this blows into something else."
Frightened by the implication, he turned and walked to Berger's office, where he repeated the story. She told him to write down what had happened and give his summary to the advisor to place in Alex's file.
Trost wrote the memorandum that day. Noting that Alex had "stared daggers" for the rest of the day's class, he concluded, "This may become a problem, so I wanted you to know ahead of time."
It was a Thursday, and the week ended uneventfully. So early the next week, when Berger approached and asked if he would come to her office when he got a chance, Trost was not alarmed; he thought she was just checking in to see how he was progressing with the behavioral problems of some of his students. But warning bells began to sound when Berger closed the door and said, "I have to talk to you about something I'm uncomfortable with."
Eric was accusing Trost of having "grabbed his butt," she said. And Alex claimed to have witnessed the incident.
At some point in the conversation, Larry Dougherty, Graland's headmaster, entered the room. He assured Trost that they were working with the parents to get to the bottom of the accusations. The parents wanted to keep the whole thing "under wraps," he said.
However, Dougherty continued, the school was required to report such an accusation to the state's Department of Social Services. And because the incident was alleged to have occurred at a school, the department was required by Colorado law to ask the police to investigate.
Trost shook his head, dazed. It wasn't true, he said. He hadn't touched the boy. Berger, who noted that she had been in the classroom on the day in question and had not seen such an incident, said she would personally interview the two students.
Trost asked if he could have the rest of the day off--there was no way he could handle going back to class. The administrators nodded. Yes, that was probably the best thing.
Instead of going home to his apartment, Trost drove over to the Watermans' and screamed out his story. "You won't believe what I'm being accused of," he told them. After seventeen exemplary years as a teacher, he couldn't imagine a more heinous charge than molesting a child.
As Trost ranted and paced and then began to cry, Marcus Waterman thought the accusation was the most ridiculous thing he had ever heard. J.B., of all people. He had known his friend for fifteen years. He knew his children, even some of his students--the man loved kids and would never do anything to hurt them.
When Trost finally calmed down, he asked his friends if they thought he should just resign and walk away. They convinced him to stick it out and fight--not just for his own sake, but also to prove that kids couldn't get away with this.
Trost returned to school the next day, convinced the allegations would soon be exposed as nothing but lies. Over the next few days he kept calling the dean of the faculty to see if there was any word regarding the investigation. Again he was assured that the administration was working with the parents. "Fine," Trost told her. "Let's get together and talk and see if we can get to the bottom of this." But it turned out the parents didn't want to meet with him.
Finally, Trost was called into Dougherty's office. Berger was there, too, with notes she had made during her January 20 interviews with the boys.
According to those notes, Eric acknowledged that he, Alex and two other friends had been talking in class on the day in question. He said Trost had asked him to calm down and "grabbed his shoulder and ran his hand down his back," then grabbed his butt. "Not a pinch, but a grab--a quick grab," Eric had told Berger.