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Boise principal accused of ignoring sexual abuse pleads not guilty, requests trial

By Alex Brizee and Sally Krutzig Idaho Statesman

A former Boise middle school principal who’s been accused of failing to investigate allegations of sex abuse of a female student will face a jury trial after he pleaded not guilty to a felony charge Wednesday.

Christopher Ryan, the former principal of Fairmont Junior High School, is facing a felony injury to a child charge and pleaded not guilty Wednesday during an afternoon arraignment. Fourth District Judge Thomas Neville told Ryan that his maximum sentence, should he be found guilty, would be 10 years in prison and a $50,000 fine.

Authorities have accused Ryan of allowing a man to have “unsupervised contact” with an underage student at the school while knowing the man was “behaving in a way that was inappropriate” or “unlawful toward the child,” according to the October indictment, which the Idaho Statesman obtained through a public records request.

Lawsuits filed against Ryan, along with reporting by the Idaho Capitol Sun, identified the man as school social worker Scott Crandell. He died by suicide in December 2022 a day after police seized his phone, the Sun reported.

Ryan is on paid administrative leave, Boise School District spokesperson Dan Hollar told the Statesman. He was initially placed on leave in January, then assigned to an administrative role in February before being placed on leave again in May, according to a court record.

It’s the third time a criminal charge has been brought against Ryan. In January, Ryan was charged with failure to report child abuse or neglect, according to online court records. The charge was dismissed, and a new charge of misdemeanor injury to a child was filed against him in May. That charge was again dismissed in September at the request of the prosecution, the court records showed.

Neville scheduled a four-day jury trial to begin on Feb. 20 at the Ada County Courthouse. Ryan’s attorney didn’t immediately return a phone call from the Statesman.

Parents sue Boise School District

Fairmont Junior High parents have accused Ryan of failing to act on two sexual abuse allegations.

Parents sued Ryan, the Boise School District and Fairmont Junior High in October. In two separate lawsuits, parents alleged that teachers, parents, staff members and law enforcement reported the allegations that Crandell sexually abused their daughters, who were in seventh and eighth grade, and that Ryan failed to investigate the complaints.

Ryan is also facing a third lawsuit, though a majority of the documents are sealed from the public.

The parents alleged Crandell “groomed” and “engaged in predatory sexually abusive acts” toward their children. Crandell is also accused of using his position and “psychological manipulation” to groom students for his own “sexual gratification,” according to two lawsuits.

The complaint describes several instances when the then-seventh grader’s father, several teachers and staff informed Ryan about Crandell’s alleged inappropriate behavior. According to the lawsuit, the student’s father called Ryan in March 2022, concerned about the fact that Crandell was communicating with his daughter at odd hours. The father also visited the school in November and met with Ryan regarding Crandell’s text messages to his daughter.

“Principal Ryan did nothing to properly investigate Crandell or his conduct towards female students,” one lawsuit said.

The parents of the then-seventh grader said their daughter was having a “particularly tough year” because of medical issues, and Crandell offered to help their daughter, according to a lawsuit. Crandell was accused of “grooming” the seventh grader by exchanging text messages and phone calls with her, the lawsuit said.

In the other lawsuit, filed on behalf of the eighth grader, the parents alleged Crandell pulled her out of class for “nap time” in his office, closing the door and pulling the shades. The lawsuit states that the student’s teachers knew and reported it to Ryan, but that no one reported it to the parents or the police.

“The (parents) were left in the dark,” the lawsuit said.

Hollar in a statement said the school district has a “thorough” and “comprehensive” reporting process and encourages individuals who have experienced or seen inappropriate behavior to report it to the district or law enforcement.

“We want our community to know that we take any such claims very seriously and want to make it clear that we are committed to providing a safe and inclusive learning environment for all of our students,” Hollar said by email. “Our district remains dedicated to upholding high standards of integrity, transparency, and accountability. By working together, we create a safe and supportive community for all students.”