‘Kept the secret for so long:’ Graduate recounts alleged assault by former Elmbrook teacher, coach

BROOKFIELD -- A graduate of the School District of Elmbrook has come forward with sexual assault allegations against her former teacher and coach. The incidents allegedly occurred in the early 1980s, and district leaders said the accusations are credible.

"I've kept the secret for so long," Carri Zarske said.

For four years, beginning in 1982, Zarske said she was sexually assaulted multiple times by her physical education teacher and basketball coach Gary Blaschke.

Gary Blaschke (from 1993 yearbook)

"It just continued on, and he started to get a little more relaxed. It kept on continuing," said Zarske.

Zarske said she was sexually assaulted on school property -- first at Burleigh Middle School and later at Brookfield East High School. She said one incident took place at Blaschke's house. Zarske said Blaschke transferred to the high school when she started classes there. She said hiding her pain had other consequences.

"Even before I graduated Brookfield East, I got a drunk driving -- almost missed final exams," said Zarske.

Inspired by strength she found in the #MeToo movement, she wrote Blaschke an email. To her surprise, she said he wrote her back.

"He did state in the email that he relives this every day himself," Zarske said. "I don't believe that is true."

"The facts are not in dispute. We've done an internal investigation with our own team," Dr. Mark Hansen, superintendent of the School District of Elmbrook.

Dr. Hansen said his team reviewed the correspondence and got police involved.

"I'm sorry. Our organization failed this young lady. If we failed others, we will work hard to make it right," said Dr. Hansen.

Zarske said she told another teacher at Burleigh at the onset of the abuse, but the teacher dismissed it at the time. Zarske said that teacher was recently interviewed by detectives. She said she wonders how her life would have been different if someone had listened all those years ago.

Carri Zarske

"It can affect every aspect of your life. Your relationships. You blame. Why am I like this today? It's because you were abused when you should have been protected," Zarske said.

At this time, there is no evidence that there are other victims.

School district officials said Blaschke retired in 2002, but recently worked as a sub and worked at some athletic events in the district. When the allegations came to light, he was suspended.

Officials with the School District of Elmbrook and police asked anyone with additional information to call 262-373-6606 or Detective Jennifer Toepfer from the Brookfield Police Department at 262-787-3614.

Superintendent Hansen on Tuesday morning, April 9 released this statement:

"Our internal investigation and a review of old emails have resulted in preliminary findings that are crystal clear, and that is that Mr. Gary Blaschke, a 30 year plus veteran teacher in the Elmbrook system at Burleigh Middle School (early 1970s-to the mid 1980s) and Brookfield East High School (1985-2002), over the course of several years repeatedly sexually abused a minor student of the district in the 1980's."

"This news leaves me and the entire School Board very angry. I also am saddened, but most importantly, I am sorry. From the moment I first read about this on Monday, April 1, we have worked tirelessly on this issue as part of our commitment to do the right thing. The evidence available now shows that the facts are not in dispute. I am sickened by these facts, and to the victim, I express our sincere apologies because our organization failed you."

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