Court issues child protection order against candidate for Idaho schools chief

Branden Durst says accusations are false, and he looks forward to case being dismissed

By: - February 18, 2022 4:25 pm
A gavel and scale

A candidate for Idaho state superintendent of schools is barred from contacting children under a protection order through March 16. (Getty Images)

This story was originally published on the Idaho Reports blog on Friday, Feb. 18.

A candidate for Idaho state superintendent of schools is accused of encouraging an act of child abuse, according to a temporary protection order granted this week by a Washington state court.

The court granted an order against Branden Durst and his current wife at the request of Durst’s ex-wife, after a Washington state doctor reported an injured child to Child Protective Services.

The alleged abuse occurred in December in Boise. The Washington state officials forwarded information about the child’s injury to the Ada County Sheriff’s Office, which said it referred the matter to the Ada County Prosecutor’s Office. “We have received reports from the Sheriff’s Office,” Prosecutor’s Office spokesperson Emily Lowe told Idaho Reports, “and they are currently under review.” As of Friday afternoon, neither Durst nor his wife had been charged.

“There’s nothing to talk about,” Durst told Idaho Reports when reached for comment on Friday. “There’s false allegations. We look forward to the case being dismissed.”

According to a copy of the petition filed in Washington, Durst’s ex-wife, Jaime Charles, said Durst’s current wife, Cheri Durst, struck a 14-year-old child with a wooden spoon. In the document, Charles said Branden Durst “not only watched and did nothing to stop it, but he actively encouraged his wife to beat (the child).”

Durst, a former legislator and current candidate for Idaho superintendent of public instruction in the May Republican primary, is due in Washington State court March 2.

Durst also faces an investigation in Ada County.

Idaho Reports filed a request for copies of the police report filed with the Ada County Sheriff’s Office, but the request was denied Feb. 15 due to a pending law enforcement investigation.

Idaho Reports obtained copies of the petition from the Thurston County Superior Court. In the document, the ex-wife states she believes that if the court didn’t grant the protection order, the children would suffer the consequences and Durst may prevent the children from calling for help.

Should Branden Durst be elected as superintendent of public instruction, he would be responsible for overseeing the education of more than 323,000 children.

The alleged incident happened at Durst’s Boise home, court documents say

According to the petition, when the ex-wife picked up two children from Durst’s Boise home on Dec. 26, the oldest child complained of pain in his right leg.

The two children reported that on Christmas Eve the boy “had been held down by his stepmother for refusing to do laundry, he was able to get away but was drug back into the laundry room by Cheri where she climbed on top of him again, held him down, and beat him with a wooden spoon breaking it over his leg,” according to the petition.

According to the documents, the children said Branden Durst watched and encouraged the actions.

Durst’s ex-wife noticed two large bruises on the boy’s leg on Dec. 27 and took him to the doctor on Dec. 30 because he reported “his leg was still bothering him,” according to the petition. It was that doctor who notified child protective services.

In January, the Ada County Sheriff’s Office began an investigation at the request of child protective services and contacted the child’s mother, according to the petition.

Thurston County court’s finding

The Thurston County court found that an emergency existed and that a temporary protection order should be issued “without notice” to Cheri and Branden Durst to avoid “irreparable harm.”

Through the order, Cheri and Branden Durst are restrained from coming near his ex-wife and the children. The children may initiate phone calls, video calls and texts with him if they wish, but Durst may not initiate that contact. Cheri Durst may have no contact, according to the protection order.

As of Feb. 18, no criminal charges had been filed against Branden or Cheri Durst in connection to the alleged incident.

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