Yet another astounding story from the front lines — our nation’s schools.
From True’s 28 November 2010 issue:
We Know What’s Good For You
(No. 7,639 In a Long Series)
With “zero tolerance” policies, schools are quick to call in police for even minor alleged infractions of their rules. Central High School in Muncie, Ind., went the other way: when a student came to the office to report she had been dragged into a school restroom and raped, school officials refused to call in the police — not even the police detective at the school working security. Instead, the 16-year-old girl was told to write a report on the crime, and then sat for 2-1/2 hours waiting for a Youth Opportunity Center employee to come get her. The YOC worker wasn’t informed of the nature of the call until she arrived; she took the girl to the hospital, and doctors there immediately called police. “There has to be some basis for which to notify the police,” said school superintendent Eric King. “They are investigating to determine if there was an incident,” hence the written report. A police investigator said the four-hour delay in getting detectives involved left “too big a chance of losing critical evidence.” A prosecutor said he was “extremely uncomfortable” with the school trying to take on a criminal investigation by itself, and that the school had an “absolute duty under the law” to bring in the police. (RC/Muncie Star Press) …They’ll consider that request. Maybe.
There Are Already Updates
Police did find evidence of a crime, and (six days later) arrested the boy, who is being charged as an adult.
The school told the boy that the girl had “changed her story” and he could go home! He did — and took a shower and washed his clothes.
“We lost any evidence that he had on him at that time,” said Muncie Police Detective George Hopper. Of course, the boy “changed his story” himself when he talked with police, first denying everything, then later saying the sex was consensual.
But he also admitted he had “crossed the line” with the girl, who resisted him. Police say when they talked to the girl, she didn’t change her story at all. But yeah: no doubt she was embarrassed to have school officials interrogate her, and likely wasn’t clear when answering the questions asked by self-appointed (and completely untrained, in a criminal investigation sense) school “investigators.”
The police say flatly that school officials “have interfered with and delayed the investigation that is required by state law.” Because of the delay in reporting the crime, other students used the restroom, trampling over any evidence there, too.
The Youth Opportunity Center is a “troubled children’s center.” The shocked caseworker took the girl to the hospital as soon as she discovered what was going on.
“I don’t know that I can speak to the delay” in bringing in the police, said the school superintendent. “We are cooperating.”
These are the people we’re paying to educate (and, in loco parentis, protect) our kids. If this is an example of the kind of “professional” school administrators we have, we have too many administrators. I’m guessing we could hire at least two teachers for what it costs for this kind of administrator.
I do know there are good administrators out there too, but I’m wondering if this is a major part of the educational problem in this country: too many chiefs, not enough “Indians” (teachers) who do the actual educational tasks.
December 2010 Update
Lots of the commenters are wondering why criminal charges haven’t been pursued against school officials. This morning, the Star Press is reporting that’s in progress.
A grand jury was empaneled in early December to look into the case, and specifically “told they might be asked to determine whether state law was violated in the response by [school] officials,” rather than look into the alleged rape itself.
The incident occurred November 9, so it took nearly a month to impanel a Grand Jury to look into what was immediately obvious to me and my readers.
Sources: ALL links deleted as none are online anymore. The Muncie Star Press and WTHR-TV Indianapolis have apparently decided these stories are no longer of interest to readers.
February 2011 Update
A Delaware County deputy prosecutor has issued his first comments after looking into the situation at Central High School.
“And I didn’t necessarily like what I saw,” said Eric Hoffman, who is still trying to determine whether school officials should be indicted on criminal charges for their failure to report the rape on campus.
Out of Control
Hoffman reports discipline at the school is “lacking or completely non-existent.” For example, he has seen “out-of-control and violent fights and students actually standing up and telling teachers to f— off. What has significantly compounded this chaos is the unwritten policy or at least the desire by the administration to handle these matters in-house without the intervention and help from police officers,” even those who are stationed at the school.
He notes “arrests for delinquent or criminal activity occurring on campus are frowned upon, discouraged or prohibited by various administrators [in the entire district], particularly at Central High School.”
School officials have even stopped officers from conducting alcohol tests on students they suspect are intoxicated on campus, which has helped create a “snowballing effect of completely out-of-control students and an oftentimes chaotic environment,” Hoffman said.
It Starts from the Top
The response by district officials is as lame as you might expect. “I don’t know what he’s responding to, so I can’t comment,” said Supt. Eric King, who also refused to say whether any administrator at the high school has faced internal discipline over failing to report the rape.
King’s Assistant Supt., Tim Heller, seems a bit more on the ball. He has proposed new “security policies” to the school board, Hoffman says, which “makes it crystal clear that school administrators do not have the authority to direct a school security officer to make an arrest or, more importantly, to not make an arrest.”
That’s a direct response to something that happened at Central High, when principal Chris Smith allegedly “interfered with an officer who tried to make an arrest and told the officer that he will decide who is arrested on school grounds,” Hoffman said. “That is not the law and that will no longer be tolerated by law enforcement or the prosecutor’s office.”
It’s about time!
Hoffman said he will decide in March whether to present evidence to the Grand Jury about the school officials interference with the rape investigation. “The ultimate question will be whether there is sufficient evidence that school administrators violated Indiana criminal law, and if so, who specifically violated the law,” he said.
Source: Muncie Star Press — and kudos to them for staying on this story (even if — sigh it’s not important enough to them to leave it online! Bad link removed.)
March 2011 Update
Central High Principal Christopher Smith, who was previously “reassigned” within the school district (note: not fired!), has finally been charged with a crime regarding this case.
“Any person who has reason to know that a child may be the victim of child abuse or neglect is required to immediately make a report to either the Department of Child Services or a local law enforcement agency,” said the Delaware County Prosecutor’s Office in announcing the criminal charge. “As principal, Mr. Smith was in charge of the building and the duty to comply with the law… was ultimately his, and only his, responsibility.”
The charge: failure to immediately report child abuse or neglect, a misdemeanor. The most severe penalty available under the law: 180 days in the county jail.
(Source: again, it’s not important enough to WRTV in Indianapolis for them to leave it online. Bad link removed.)
March 2014 Update: Justice Served…?
The good news: Former Central High Principal Christopher Smith was indeed convicted in 2012. The eye-roller: he appealed the conviction on the same grounds he started with: he was “investigating the validity” of the girl’s allegation …which is absolutely not his job, is something he is not trained for, is in contradiction to the abundantly clear “Duty to Report” law he was convicted of, and (as we’ll see below), was not what he was actually doing!
Apparently, even after going through a trial on that misdemeanor charge, he never bothered to read and understand the law. He also (get this!) argued that the law’s requirement that he “immediately” report such abuse was “vague”!
Thus the good news: in 2014 the Indiana Supreme Court upheld Smith’s conviction. But the bad news is, the Court of Appeals had reversed Smith’s conviction in January 2013, which is why it went to the state Supreme Court in the first place. Yet even then, the state’s high court only barely upheld the conviction: the vote was 3-2!
Smith “ignored repeated opportunities to contact the police,” the majority noted in its ruling, “several of whom were in his building — or call [the Department of Child Services], and proceeded to instead conduct several hours of job interviews for open administrator positions. At that point Smith was neither reporting nor investigating — he was ignoring the issue.”
And it was still 3-2?! Did I mention that this crap rolls down from the top?
Smith’s sentence for this misdemeanor conviction: 120 days of probation, 100 hours of community service, a $100 fine, and court costs. Plus, I dearly hope was paid out of his own pocket, thousands upon thousands of dollars’ worth of lawyer time.
Meanwhile Moore, the 16-year-old rapist, was charged as an adult and pleaded guilty to sexual battery and criminal confinement. He was sentenced to 4 years in prison in 2011.
“The lesson to be learned,” said prosecutor Eric Hoffman, who rode this case from beginning to end, “is this: If you have knowledge that a child may have been abused or neglected, you better immediately report it, or you could be prosecuted and convicted, regardless of who you are or what position you hold.”
Now that is leading from the top.
Source (still online as of 2020!): Indianapolis Star via USA Today.
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