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Tuesday, June 26, 2007

School District In No Hurry to Report Sexual Assault Allegation

posted by on June 26 at 11:33 AM

As the Times and P-I have reported, Rainier Beach High School officials failed to report an alleged sexual assault of a girl by two boys, waiting until the girl filed a complaint with the school to report the assault to police.

According to the Times’ account of the police report, the girl told police the two boys began sexually harassing her in a supervised history class. After the class ended, she said, they followed her into the hall, where one of them grabbed her and unzipped her shirt. She said she struggled and hit the boy, who then dragged her into a nearby restroom and sexually assaulted her in a stall while the other boy stood watch outside. She immediately went to school officials and reported the assault.

Their response? The two boys were suspended… for three days.

Although the boys were eventually expelled for nine days (after the end of the school year), it’s worth putting that punishment in context. If three days’ suspension is the standard punishment for raping a girl in a bathroom, it stands to reason that punishments for other offenses must be similarly lenient.

Except, of course, that they aren’t. From a look at other punishments meted out by Seattle school officials over the past few years, it appears that Seattle school officials take sexual assault less seriously than insulting teachers, playing senior-year pranks, and talking back. According to news reports, here are a few examples of punishments for offenses committed at Seattle schools.

Six to 90 days for creating a false MySpace page in a teacher’s name.

Four days for eating in class and talking back to a teacher.

Forty days for creating a video making fun of a teacher.

Suspension until the end of the school year
and barring from commencement for painting on a football field.

Seattle Public Schools’ disciplinary code classifies sexual assault as “exceptional misconduct,” in the same category as selling drugs, gang membership, and bringing guns to school. So why didn’t Rainier Beach officials treat it that way?

RSS icon Comments

1

they knew it was sexual assault and only suspended them four days? they should never be allowed back on that campus.

Posted by infrequent | June 26, 2007 11:39 AM
2

Do these boys play on the football or basketball team? Just curious as to why their asses aren't in jail.

Posted by elswinger | June 26, 2007 11:39 AM
3

They didnt treat it that way because they want to be sued!

Posted by Bellevue Ave | June 26, 2007 11:40 AM
4

Because the purpose of the school is not rape prevention, but obedience training? Their mission is to create docile citizens who respect authority and do what they are told at all times, and never give in to the temptation of creative thinking. Rape? Who cares? If anything, a little rape will teach the girl to constantly be afraid, which is an excellent control mechanism.

Posted by Fnarf | June 26, 2007 11:45 AM
5

I'm guessing they got off from the school so lightly, because of the boys will be boys mentality that still persists, which was I'm sure mixed with a bit of she was askin' for it.

That, and hoping no one notices.

Administrators involved should be all fired, and the boys should end up in prison.

Posted by seattle98104 | June 26, 2007 11:46 AM
6

Or maybe the school people had reason to doubt all or part of the allegation, so they waited for an official complaint, or for the girl to report the assault to police herself.

Posted by pox | June 26, 2007 12:00 PM
7

Two thoughts:

  1. Exclusion from school is a heavily regulated remedy since it involves the Fourteenth Amendment's guarantee of due process. The principal may have wanted some time to evaluate the situation. Student discipline cases are often long simmering situations where exclusion is the last resort.
  2. Seattle's schools, as I understand them, are very principal focused. One principal may choose to suspend a kid for a MySpace prank whereas another may simply choose to reprimand. The school district does not publish mandatory sentencing guidelines.

And a bonus:

  • If the aggressors can tie this to a diagnosable disability (such as ADHD) then federal law limits the length of exclusion. Like any law, it can create some spectacularly bad results.
Posted by An Interested Party | June 26, 2007 12:11 PM
8

ECB - why don't you actually do some reporting rather than local news surfing. If the school did as bad a job as your surfing report suggests, why not go the sources and get answers. Have you even spoken to the girl, the boys, or the schools officials?

It would seem that if the girl was forced to do anything of the nature described, 3 days wouldn't be enough punishment - suspension could be viewed as no punishment at all - they should have to clean school grounds before and after school or something like that.

Was this a case of rape? Does sexual assault = rape? If not, then why use the word? Below one definition of sexual assault:

"Act" referenced in the terms below includes but is not limited to sexual intercourse, sodomy or sexual penetration with an inanimate object, the touching of a person's intimate parts (defined as genitalia, groin, breast or buttocks, or clothing covering them), or compelling a person to touch his or her own or another person's intimate parts without effective consent.


Sexual Assault

Sexual Assault occurs when the act is intentional and is committed either by a) physical force, violence, threat, or intimidation; b) ignoring the objections of another person; c) causing another's intoxication or impairment through the use of drugs or alcohol; or d) taking advantage of another person's incapacitation, state of intimidation, helplessness, or other inability to consent.

Posted by whatever | June 26, 2007 12:28 PM
9

There's a disability that causes boys to commit rape? That's a new one.

Posted by keshmeshi | June 26, 2007 12:28 PM
10

Schools are supposed to report these incedents to police, by law. Sounds like they dropped the ball.

A better question is, where is the criminal case on this? If her story is correct, their suspension will be nothing but symbolic, since they may not be returning to school for a while.

Posted by Dougsf | June 26, 2007 12:30 PM
11

@8

I'm sorry, but even using the definition you provded of sexual assault, three days suspension is not enough. It isn't enough. Three days suspension isn't even lip service. I don't really care if there was penetration or groping--sexual assault is a criminal act and it needs to be taken seriously--far more seriously than three days suspension. Come on.

Posted by Jaime-Leigh | June 26, 2007 12:39 PM
12

@11 - That may well be, but whatever's point about the sloppiness here is valid. What was the offense in question, exactly? I don't know - neither of the articles provide much detail. But it wasn't rape, as ECB claimed here, and whatever happened could be non-trivially different.

Posted by tsm | June 26, 2007 1:03 PM
13

What happened to the Stranger wide range of folks in the comments? It's as if it's been overun by frat boys.

Posted by mirror | June 26, 2007 1:15 PM
14

aren't school officials MANDATED CHILD ABUSE REPORTERS?


don't they have a legal obligation to report child abuse to the police?

Posted by r | June 26, 2007 1:24 PM
15

You're right, we don't know exactly what was entailed in the assult--but none of the articles I have read have stated that it wasn't rape--it has only been referred to as a sexual assault which does not, legally speaking, exclude rape. In fact, as far as legal terminology goes, the word rape is not used--only sexual assault, the severity of which is described in degrees, like murder. So while ECB may not have been accurate in calling it rape, he might equally not have been inaccurate.

Posted by Jaime-Leigh | June 26, 2007 1:30 PM
16

# 11 - I don't really care if there was penetration or groping--

If you read my post you'd know I said 3 days of suspension was no penalty at all - but yes I make a distinction between groping and penetration, guess that make me a frat boy.

ECB has done nothing as usual but fan flames and get more hits for unsubstantiated accusations - now from what I read the boys have not admitted what the girl accused them of and they haven't had their day in court - I know many here grew up with GW as president and don't think trials are necessary but when you think that maybe, just maybe the events weren't like described by the girl, that these boys were punished without much due process - Principals can be a tad bit arbitrary - but if guilty 3 days is not enough.

The definition provided was from a google search. #3 on the list

Posted by whatever | June 26, 2007 1:43 PM
17

According to the original news report, the boy said he exposed himself to the girl, but that was it.

Let's assume that's true for a moment. If an administrator notifies the police, the kid gets sex offender status, and his life is ruined. (Remember those the boys who became convicted sex offenders for slapping girls on the ass at school?) Erica, would you be willing to ruin this kid's life over this?

I think a lot of people, male and female, would reasonably conclude that the punishment awaiting this kid is way, way too harsh for his crime, especially considering his age.

Posted by Sean | June 26, 2007 1:52 PM
18

@16

I did read your post, whatever, and I appreciate the definition posted. My point is that while nobody would disagree that there is a distinction between groping, for example, and rape, three days suspension is not a sufficient penalty for even the most minor of sexual assaults. I certainly agree that trials, presumed innocence etc. is an important aspect of the judicial system, but that tends to translate to (at least as far as sex crimes go) "assume the victim is a liar unless unequivocal proof is presented, and even then...ahh, she probably had it coming." It seems to me that the issue was not that a punishment was handed down without sufficient evidence, but that the punishment handed down was arbitrary, yes, and painfully insufficient. If there was cause to punish at all (three days susp.), there should have been cause to punish adequately (expuksion).

Posted by Jaime-Leigh | June 26, 2007 1:58 PM
19

@17

I'm sorry, are we seriously discussing the aftermath of this from the perpetrator's perspective?

"He exposed himself to the girl, but that was it."

That was it? Oh, and because that is as much as he admitted to, we are to assume that is as far as it went?

Perhaps you can only see it from the male's point of view, but as a female we are aware that these are the tactics predators use to invoke fear and perpetuate abuse.

It is not our job to worry about the aftermath of a criminal's choices--it is our job to protect the victims. Shame on you.

Posted by Jaime-Leigh | June 26, 2007 2:04 PM
20

Three days suspension for rape.

Wow.

They REWARD them with three days off?

Seriously.

Posted by Will in Seattle | June 26, 2007 2:32 PM
21

oh, and @14 - yes, they are.

Posted by Will in Seattle | June 26, 2007 2:34 PM
22

If they did something as little as exposing themselves to her they should get much more than expulsion let alone only three days. As I said earlier they should be punished and I will add counselled.

ECB shouldn't brand them as rapists without more information. We shouldn't toss every bad sexual act into the rape category. And yes, it is a big problem that most sex crimes only have two witnesses - believing one gender versus the other at all times is never right.

Posted by whatever | June 26, 2007 2:48 PM
23

Glad you posted this Erica. Point of note: 'suspended' means you're out for a period of time; 'expelled' means you don't come back. Believe me i know from personal experience.
Also, there's no grey area here folks - Principals, teachers, social workers, recreation workers, caseworkers, etc. are all MANDATORY reporters. This means the Principal does not have an option whether to report. It is mandatory for all of us. Process goes like this: child reports to any mandatory reporter (which is virtually everyone who works with kids in a professional capacity) and that person is obligated to do one of two things - report it to their immediate supervisor or report it to CPS (Child Protective Services). The supervisor then has the same two options. The idea is that it will ultimately get to the top of the chain of command and then that person must call CPS. CPS's job is to investigate. Washington has some of the toughest sex offender laws in the country and i do agree that it could screw up the offender's life. However, the intent is that CPS will conduct a fair investigation. I have seen CPS fuck up peoples' lives and send kids into the system who probably shouldn't be there. I have also seen CPS save kids' lives. I work with kids and have called CPS at least a dozen times over the years - a lot rests in who the investigator is unfortunately.
Nonetheless, ultimately it is our job to look out for the victim in the situation first and foremost.

Posted by call me a snot | June 26, 2007 3:44 PM
24

@17


It is not our job to worry about the aftermath of a criminal's choices--it is our job to protect the victims. Shame on you.

No, Jaime-Leigh, shame on you. It is our job to worry about how our government treats criminals. The 14th Amendment guarantees due process and protects criminals from cruel and unusual punishment. And thank god for it, or we'd have American citizens being tortured in Guantanamo bay along with the so called "enemy combatants".

I agree that a kid who exposes himself to someone deserves punishment, and certainly more than a 3 day suspension. But our justice system would almost certainly overreact to this crime, and distrust of the justice system only makes people, including school officials, less likely to report crimes. That doesn't help victims at all.

Posted by Sean | June 26, 2007 4:22 PM
25

@23:
Yeah, two things I've observed about CPS and mandatory reporting:

1) A majority of mandatory reporters have no idea about reporting laws and do not report things they are required to. True of MDs, PhDs, MSWs, school counselors, teachers, and apparently school administrators, too.

2) CPS is totally hit or miss. Sometimes they'll go after a trivial offense as if it were a child porn ring. Then they'll brush off a serial abuser like that foster dad in Redmond who repeatedly raped the teenage girls in his care.

No question though, the administrators fucked this one up.

Posted by Sean | June 26, 2007 4:44 PM
26

true true true Sean @ 24!!
Dante once said 'you can judge a civilization by how it treats its imprisoned population' and i think that is really true.
our prisons have been taken over by for-profit industry!!!! this is outrageous and wrong. just ponder this for a minute - it's incredible what it means. it is nothing like the post office being taken over by private industry.

Posted by where is your humanity? | June 26, 2007 4:45 PM
27

I had the misfortune to attend South Shore Middle School twenty five years ago when Robert Gary was principal. He must have something really good on everyone at the school district that he's still employed. At every school he's been assigned to, parents complain and complain because the school goes downhill and loses good teachers. Finally a grotesque incident like this occurs and forces the district to move him along.
I then went to Rainier Beach(Dr. Gary was not the principal). While I had some very good teachers, for decades it has been the dumping ground for administrators and teachers that no other school would accept. My senior year, the vice principal(50s-60s) married a sophmore he impregnated(when she was a freshman) and was kept on staff. The same year a basketball coach "dated" several cheerleaders.

Posted by anna | June 26, 2007 9:44 PM
28

@24

You misinterpreted what I said. Yes, these boys are entitled to due process--of course they are. That goes without saying. When I said that it isn't our job to worry about the aftermath of a criminal's choices I meant that concern over repercusions for his choice do not trump concern over the aftermath of this situation for the victim. Will sex offender status ruin his life? Yes, of course it will. Is that fair? Just? No, I don't think so. I can't help but think that this boy or these boys gambled, and lost. Surely they know the consequences of a sexual assault conviction? We're not talking about an eight year old boy here, we're talking about a teenaged boy. I am sure they can understand the simple concept of cause and effect.

But that aside, can we think for a moment about the implications of NOT reporting it to the police? What message does that send to the victim? Are you really willing to send the message that due process is necessary only in terms of the offender? Is this girl not entitled to due process, i.e. reporting the incident to the crime?

If the incident is not reported for fear that the boy's life will be ruined, it inherently suggests that his life, his wellbeing is more important than hers. And when it comes to crimes against women it is just too slippery a slope. This is why sexual assault/sexual harrasment laws are so vital--a message must be sent that this is unacceptable and that it will be taken seriously--we already know what the consequences are of letting things slide.

Posted by Jaime-Leigh | June 27, 2007 5:54 AM
29

Eeek...getting too emotional here. I meant to say:

Repercussions

and

Reporting the incident to the police.

Posted by Jaime-Leigh | June 27, 2007 5:57 AM
30

High school girls: You have a RIGHT to attend school free from this type of harassment. Stand up and DEMAND your right to a classroom free of harassment. There should be ZERO tolerance for this sort of behavior.

I am very glad the girl went to the police. That took a lot of courage which is more than I can say for those 2 cowardly boys and the principal.

Where's the leadership, Principal Gary? Shame on you!

Posted by Pasdedeux | June 29, 2007 10:03 PM

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