Lafayette middle school principal on leave as district investigates her handling of sexual abuse allegations

(012510, South Hadley, MA) A vacant classroom is seen at South Hadley High School on Monday, January 25, 2010. Staff photo by Christopher Evans saved in Tuesday (Photo by Christopher Evans/MediaNews Group/Boston Herald via Getty Images)

Stanley Middle School Principal Nikki Chaplan has been placed on leave by the Lafayette school district while officials investigate her role in sex abuse accusations against a former San Ramon Valley Unified School District teacher.

Chaplan was hired in June 2022, after working in the San Ramon Valley district since 2005, most recently as an assistant principal at San Ramon Valley High School in Danville. She was also an assistant principal at Pine Valley and Iron Horse middle schools in San Ramon, according to the City of Lafayette.

Lafayette School District Superintendent Brent Stephens sent an email to the district community Saturday, saying new reports raised questions about the San Ramon Valley district investigation of a teacher accused of sexual misconduct against two minors.

Stephens said an article by the Mercury News said reports from the district's internal investigation may be missing, and that Chaplan has knowledge of prior student allegations against the teacher before his arrest.

"The reporter describes Ms. Chaplan as having had knowledge of at least some of the student allegations against the teacher," Stephens wrote. "Though there is no evidence presented in the article that Ms. Chaplan misstepped in her role, the reporter raises questions about the district's overall handling of these allegations, including whether investigations were conducted adequately, whether reporting requirements were fulfilled, and whether investigations records were properly created and maintained."

Stephens wrote it's not possible to know for certain what happened.

"Still, the primary responsibility of the Lafayette School District is to provide for the safety of our students," Stephens wrote. "For this reason, I feel it necessary to conduct our own investigation into what took place during this time so that we can, as much as possible, review source documents and determine what is factually accurate. Because of the nature of these questions, during this investigation Ms. Chaplan will be placed on leave - the standard practice in cases like this."

Stephens wrote in Chaplan's short time at Stanley, she "has already contributed thoughtfully to the Stanley community, feedback about her leadership has been positive, and our decision to look into this matter objectively should not be construed by anyone that wrongdoing has occurred."

He asked the community not to speculate and ground their thinking in evidence.

"This is a decision I do not take lightly, and I am committed both to protecting our students' wellbeing and to treating all our employees with fairness and respect. I ask the same from everyone," Stephens wrote.

Stephens said he'll share more about how administrative support at Stanley will be organized. He said the school has two experienced assistant principals, a strong faculty and office team, collaborative parent leadership, and close, ongoing support from the district office.