Avalon Packer says her music instructor was terminated after she reported him–but later found out other students had complained about him, too.
A Bard College music student is suing the school, alleging that an instructor who was recently fired for sexual harassment should have been removed from his position even earlier.
The New York Times reports that the lawsuit was filed on Tuesday by 21-year percussionist Avalon Packer.
Packer, says the Times, enrolled at Bard in 2016. She later accused music instructor Carlos Valdez, the college’s percussion instructor, of rubbing his crotch against her while he had an erection. Packer also claims that Valdez later tried to forcibly kiss him.
Valdez was terminated in early 2020, after a Bard College investigation found Packer’s complaints credible.
However, Packer’s own review of the investigation notes found that Valdez had been
the subject of two other Title IX complaints. In both cases, investigators found the complaints credible and recommended that Valdez be fired.
“For years, Bard College knowingly employed a sexual predator as an instructor in its music program and allowed him to prey on students,” the lawsuit says.
But instead of vacating Valdez, Bard allowed him to draft written apologies and take an online anti-harassment course.
“They obviously protected somebody who didn’t deserve to protection, when in fact their whole commitment is to protect students,” Packer said in an interview.
Bard, however, says that Packer either misrepresented or misinterpreted the outcome of the school’s prior investigations. According to Bard, officials followed investigators’ recommendations and terminated Valdez following the first complaints against him. But Valdez was reinstated after appealing the decision; he was required to abide by a variety of conditions.
“Bard College takes all complaints of sexual misconduct with the utmost gravity,” Bard said in a statement.
“The College administration,” Bard added, “also made unannounced visits to his class sessions and tutorials to monitor his actions.”
While Valdez has disputed the claims against him, Packer claims he essentially “groomed” her. At first, the percussion instructor praised her musical abilities, then began giving her extra attention. That attention, says the lawsuit, eventually escalated into sexual abuse and harassment.
“Valdez groomed Ms. Packer […] He then used his power and influence he had developed over time to repeatedly assault her in his basement office during private music lessons,” the lawsuit claims.
Packer’s complaint alleges that Valdez told her not to bother reporting him, since he “always wins.”
“Ms. Packer felt betrayed by a mentor with whom she had previously felt a close connection,” the suit says. “Over time, Ms. Packer fell into a depression, often feeling like she was not living in her body.”
Ali Frick, a Kaufman Lieb Lebowitz & Frick attorney representing Packer, said it is important for Bard to be held accountable for its inaction.
“Bard’s own investigation of Ms. Packer’s complaint found that Valdez had behaved inappropriately with numerous students,” Frick said. “It must be held accountable for deliberately exposing Ms. Packer to this dangerous man.”