Marisa Roth, director and owner of the Northwest Ballet Company in Flathead County, Montana, has recently found out that one of her dance instructors is a convicted sex offender. Donald Stanfield, 26, was arrested and charged with failure to register as a sex offender, and was subsequently fired from the dance studio. Stanfield became affiliated with the studio in 2006 by performing as a guest dancer and taking dance classes. That same year, Stanfield was charged with raping two young girls. In 2008, he was convicted and received a deferred six-year sentence.
When Stanfield began teaching his own class, the ballet company did not give him a background check, and Stanfield never disclosed his conviction. Roth described Stanfield as being “a reliable and trustworthy teacher.” Her company only learned of the rape conviction when she was contacted by law enforcement, after Stanfield was charged for failure to register. Stanfield only had one student in his class, an 11-year-old, before he was arrested and fired.
In response to this case, Northwest Ballet Company now has a policy to complete background checks on anyone who has contact with children, including employees and volunteers. Roth says in a press release, “The company takes seriously its responsibility to provide a safe place for children to learn dance.” “The company was betrayed by Stanfield, who alone is responsible for his actions. The company was also betrayed by a system that puts sex offenders on probation, orders them to register and notify their employers, and then does nothing to enforce its orders for four years.” Roth said later that the dance company’s students, parents, and co-workers were “shocked and saddened” to hear about what happened. She also stated that the studio “will probably be the safest place you can dance in the Flathead Valley.”
Stanfield had never registered as required in Flathead County, according to Detective Josh Buls of the Flathead County Sheriff’s Office. Previously Stanfield was being monitored by law enforcement in Lake County, the location of his last registered address. An anonymous tip alerted the Sheriff’s Office to Stanfield’s employment at the dance studio. “He had been advised previously, not too long ago, that he was supposed to check into this county if he was going to get a job or go to school here,” Buls said.
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