This is True
Randy Cassingham

Randy Cassingham’s Blog

Historical Details and Author’s Notes from This is True®
— Weird News Online Since the Internet’s Dark Ages.

bullet  Another Week, Another Pack of Clueless School Officials
 

Updates:

School Rape Case Swept Under the Rug

The End?

Two stories this week deserve some follow-up: one that's pretty light-hearted, and the other ...much less so.

Let's start with the comedy; both stories are from True's 13 May 2012 issue:

Freak of Nomenclature, Property Tax Division

The Rutherford County, Tenn., Property Assessor says he "cannot talk about it," but rejects allegations that he has been sexually harassing his staff. Two women, aged 54 and 70, say they were fired in retaliation to complaining about the 73-year-old assessor's advances. After one incident, the woman confronted him, but he shrugged it off. "You don't know what you said?" she asked him. "No. I have no idea," he replied. "When I talk to you, I don't ever think much, I just keep saying it." A state panel agrees the women were fired in retaliation, and awarded them unemployment benefits. Meanwhile, the assessor has announced he will continue his re-election campaign. His name is Bill Boner. (RC/Murfreesboro Post, Murfreesboro Daily News Journal) ...If you think this treatment of the story is bad, you should see the tabloid and blog headlines!

Of course, the tagline begs the question: like what?

Boner Sticks It Out In Face of Sexual Harassment Complaints
—Web newspaper The Daily Caller

and

Man With Surname of 'Boner' Does Something Newsworthy
Gawker

Virtually all of the "minor media" outlets used his name in the headline.

Even the Murfreesboro Post got into the act. Managing Editor Michelle Willard told a journalism forum that she had her staff "get all of the cheesy headlines out of their system" working on the story. Their efforts included:

Boner Says Women Faking It

Female Workers Say Boner Intimidated Them

and

Boner Taking It Hard

"We had a lot of fun with it in the last week," Willard said.


The Darker Story

But yeah, there was another story this week, and it really riled me:

No, Really — It's the 21st Century (Part 935)

The high school wrestling team from tiny Norwood, Colo. (population about 450), advanced to the state championships, and a busload of students headed to Denver for the competition. At one point four students were left unsupervised on the school bus. Three of the boys, aged 14-16, cornered the fourth, 13, carried him to a more private location, taped his wrists and ankles, and raped him with a hard object. Despite legal requirements to report the incident, the school's superintendent admits officials did not do so; the boy's parents called police when he got home and told them what happened. With that, the three boys were suspended from school — for one day. School officials also "discussed" whether the victim should have been suspended too. Once Denver prosecutors caught wind of the case, they arrested the three assailants. They have been charged with kidnap, false imprisonment, and "sexual intrusion for the purpose of abuse." The school's students and parents are outraged — not at the criminals, but at the victim and his parents for reporting the assault. (RC/Telluride Watch) ...Yeah: he probably "asked for it" by being younger and smaller.

Norwood SchoolsThis kind of assault is disturbing enough as it is. That the school officials tried to pass it off as some sort of "boys will be boys" hijinks is really outrageous (I told you a similar story last year.) This is why there are "duty to report" laws in most states for those working with kids: if they have the slightest reason to even suspect the sexual or physical abuse of children they work with, they're required by law to report it to law enforcement. In Colorado, the requirement is for both oral reporting ("call the police") and a written report. School officials failed at that, and should be prosecuted for that failure. And it should result in jail time.

Colorado led the nation in making "zero tolerance" not only policy, but law -- a law that was in place well before the Columbine High School shootings (in Colorado, in 1999). The solution to ZT isn't ignoring actual crimes, it's using common sense. How could those officials fail here? They get specific training in the "duty to report" laws. I'm just a part-time volunteer EMT, and I've been given that training!

I know Norwood. I've been there many times: the high school is only about an hour from my house, not too far from tony Telluride. It's a small community; most people in town know, or at least know of, most of the other people in town. In an editorial titled Do the Right Thing, the Telluride Watch newspaper noted that "it is widely acknowledged that similar incidents, clearly crossing any reasonable line, have occurred in Norwood in the recent past, making it impossible to shrug this one off -- extreme as it evidently was -- as an isolated incident."

I call that escalation. When school officials didn't do anything about it, they tacitly agreed with what was going on -- and naturally it got worse.

But here's where it gets really ugly. The CBS station in Denver reported (and the Watch reprinted, here), that the alleged victim's father is a school official. Worse, Norwood School Board President Robert Harris doubles as head wrestling coach at Norwood schools, and has four sons on the team!

In the same story, the paper notes that at a meeting to discuss the case, 70 people showed up, and "The crowd seemed to be separated by an unseen cultural divide wider than Gurley Gulch, which separates the Hitchin’ Post from Two Candles, Norwood eating and drinking establishments patronized by conservative and liberal members of the community, respectively."

Us vs. Them Must Stop. -rcGood god: is this a petty "us vs them" political fight? Could the coach be on one side of the political spectrum, and the victim's family -- led by a fellow school official -- be on the other? If that's the case, which side, exactly, is willing to sacrifice young children and look the other way at ass rape to show they're "better" than the other? And remember, we're not just talking school officials here: parents are taking sides too!

Incredible. But that's the way it looks from that not-too-subtle wording.

The newspaper reports (here) that "A receptionist for Norwood School District attorney Darryl Farrington was instructed to not put a reporter's message through to his voicemail," and that "In addition to Norwood, Farrington lists Telluride, Ridgway and Ouray districts among his clients."

Ridgway. That's the district I live in. Not surprising -- small towns have to share resources -- but now I'm wondering where the Ridgway School Board stands about this. As it happens, our local (Ridgway-based) newspaper published a letter to the editor from my wife and me last week, where we called for the Ridgway School Board to be "on notice" that we supported their replacement or a lawsuit against them for refusing to turn over documents to our newspaper -- documents used and referred to in open public meetings and required by law to be released to any citizen who requests them. What are they hiding? What is wrong in small town Colorado school districts?

Small town politics ("All politics are local" after all) are supposed to be "transparent" -- and when they're not, even going so far as to defy the law, we mere civilians start to wonder about what's being hidden. In Norwood, what was being hidden was coming to light -- "widely acknowledged similar incidents" that exploded into public view when sexual abuse went way, Way, WAY too far. So down the road in Ridgway, I have to wonder what's being hidden here. Another pedophile teacher? We had one arrested in Ridgway some years ago, before I moved here. Unlikely, I know, but that's the kind of suspicion that's reasonable when public officials hold themselves above the public, saying we have no right to know. And especially reasonable when you find out something like school-related rape is being swept under the rug in the next county.

And despite those "widely acknowledged similar incidents" in Norwood, nothing was done until a real crisis happened. A young boy is going to suffer for life, not "just" because of what happened with those other boys, but because he knows school officials did nothing when he told them what happened to him. The assailants -- part of the right clique, which he obviously wasn't -- got a slap on the wrist (a one-day suspension!), and then he gets to learn that those school officials in authority over him had pondered punishing him, too, apparently for allowing himself to be tied up and raped by three older, larger boys.

You wouldn't know it, but yeah, that's the way it is in the 21st Century. "Us vs. them" needs to stop. We are all "us," dammit.


October 2012 Update

Norwood school superintendent Dave Crews has addressed the rape of a student ...by instituting a new "Code of Conduct" for schools.

Apparently the old one didn't make it clear that raping other students is prohibited, and that school officials are required to do something about it if it does happen.

“What we wanted to do was tighten up how we addressed discipline," Crews said. “So we looked at a few different code of conducts, some from other states and some from other districts in the state, and just tightened up what our process is.”

The Norwood Post reported this month that two of the students involved in the rape have pleaded guilty — to third-degree assault. Since assault is not a sex crime, they apparently will not have to register as sex offenders. Another student awaits trial. “For sure some of that incident had to do with re-looking at things and addressing the discipline a little bit differently,” Crews said.

Yet there was no mention of school officials being prosecuted for "failure to report" the sex assault to police when it happened, as required by law. By "addressing discipline," apparently Crews only meant whether students should receive in-school or out-of-school suspensions when they break the rules. “There’s a balance there that we need to continue to look at,” Crews said. “We don’t do in-school in a lot of cases, like in fights, but there is also some discretion. There’s also some case issues and we need to continue to look at that and continue to adjust and make the right choices.”

Yep: everything is the students' fault. The coaches and other school officials are apparently blameless in Crews' eyes.

Back to student discipline: when there is "any written or verbal expression, or physical or electronic act or gesture, or a pattern thereof, that is intended to coerce, intimidate, or cause any physical, mental or emotional harm to any student,” the new Code of Conduct notes, a first offense results in a “bullying threat assessment evaluation.”

Let's just hope that includes staff.

But nothing is set in stone. Crews says it's a "fluid document" that will change as various rules are "tested".

How about simply complying with the law? How about making it clear that school staff is held accountable?

What a fine example of sweeping the truth under the rug.

(Thanks to reader John in Arkansas for alerting me to this update.)


January 2013 Update

The nearby Telluride Watch weekly newspaper named this story one of the local "Top Ten" stories of last year. I don't find the story online, but I do pick up that paper when I see it, and there was an update in the 6 December issue too (which I also don't find online).

The highlights from those two updates:

The third rapist, now 15, who was noted as "awaiting trial" in the previous update, has also now pleaded guilty to one count of "sexual contact/no consent," a misdemeanor. He was sentenced to "ongoing" probation, 50 hours of community service, participation in a "victim empathy class," participation in a "boundaries" group, and join with the other two boys in paying $2,892.20 in restitution, which will be divided by the Crime Victim Compensation program, and the victim's family "to help reimburse" them for "out-of-pocket expenses."

It was noted again that the other two boys, age 16 and 17, pleaded guilty to third-degree assault. They were sentenced to two years of probation, 50 hours of community service, and payment toward the restitution. One was ordered to participate in a "restorative justice program" and the other to go through the "victim empathy class" and the "boundaries" group.

As part of the plea bargains, charges of kidnap, sexual assault, and false imprisonment were dismissed. As they were all juveniles, none of the assailants were named by the media.

Notice anything important missing here? I sure do: what about the crime of failure to report this incident to the police? That's what school officials are required by law to do when they're informed of a sexual assault. As my original story notes, "the school's superintendent admits officials did not do so." But as far as I can tell, there have never been any charges filed against any of the school officials who failed the victim by keeping the rape quiet.

The paper noted that after the crime became public, students had t-shirts made reading "Team TTH" (TTH being the first initials of the three rapists -- three older, larger, stronger boys who had to team up to defeat and humiliate a 13-year-old.)

Denver County law enforcement officials did the right thing: when they learned of the crime, they took immediate and firm action. San Miguel County law enforcement officials utterly failed at enforcing the law by apparently ignoring the crime committed by the adults in the cover-up. They share the shame of the "Team TTH" in making life easier for rapists, and harder for their victims.

- - -

This page is an example of what I mean by “Thought-Provoking Entertainment”. If you support sites that tell the truth even if it hurts, consider scrolling up to the top of the page for a free subscription.

To really support True, sign up for a paid subscription to the much-expanded “Premium” edition:

One Year Upgrade

(More upgrade options here.)

Q: Why would I want to pay more than the regular rate?

A: To support the publication to help it thrive and stay online, and this kind of support means less future need for price increases (and smaller increases when they do happen), which enables more people to upgrade. This option was requested by existing Premium subscribers.

147 Comments on This Entry

All comments in this blog are reviewed prior to being published. Spammers: don't waste your time. The posting criteria are simple: if a comment is worth visitors' time to read, it's approved. If not, it's not.


Posted by James, Delta, Colorado on May 14, 2012:

This story really makes me glad that my children are now OUT of the school system. Kinda reminds me of the Tennessee school board that passed a regulation forbidding the holding of hands and hugging. All to prevent teen pregnancy. They are just as clueless as the admin in the Norwood School District.

Posted by Wanda, Kansas City on May 14, 2012:

Right on!

I'm absolutely appalled! And WHAT THE...??? There is division along the POLITICAL lines??

Yes, yes indeed...WE ARE ALL 'US'!!

Posted by Bernard in Brisbane, Australia on May 14, 2012:

Wow. Just, wow.

That's probably the most appropriate story headline that I've seen in True for a while.

I'd hoped most of that kind of behaviour was left behind in the detritus of the 20th century, but I see now that it was just waiting for the perpetrators back then to grow older and get jobs on the local school boards... and regale their children with tales of the "hijinks" they got up to at school.

Posted by Sean from Canada on May 14, 2012:

This sort of story makes me glad I don't have children. If anything remotely like this happened to a child of mine (male or female, hetero or homo) I might well wind up arrested after meeting with school officials.

At the bare minimum these school officials need to be arrested.

Posted by Pete in Virginia on May 14, 2012:

I have to say I'm simply appalled at the reactions of the students and parents being outraged at the victim! I have to ask what the hell is wrong with them? The boy was raped... this isn't a wedgie or some sort of harmless prank. I seriously doubt anyone would lie about this, especially not a 13 year old boy.

What really just ticks me off is that the school officials were considering giving the victim a day of suspension -- sure, punish the boy even more, that'll teach him! Like James in Delta, Colorado I'm glad my child is out of the school system.

Posted by Chris, Roy WA on May 14, 2012:

I'm just speechless. I spent fifteen years teaching elementary school kids, and I've seen first-hand the long-term negative effects that can occur from verbal bullying. I can't imagine what the victim in this case is going to suffer. Every single school official -- every damn adult who even heard a rumor about this -- needs to be fired and prosecuted. The three monsters who committed the abuse need to be expelled and prosecuted. And the school district should be on the hook for the long-term therapy this poor kid's going to need to get over this. It's a really sick contrast with the schools you've profiled for idiotic ZT policies: here was a moment when officials actually had a moral, ethical, and legal obligation to protect a child and remove a clear, proven danger, and they failed on every possible level on which a human is capable of failure. Just sickening.

---

I'm glad to get an educator's comment on this, and back up my fury. -rc

Posted by Yogin, Pune, India on May 14, 2012:

We have similar incidents in India too -- and the mediots (media idiots) always have a field day reporting them.

Are we, as humans, really civilized? Do we deserve the world as it is?

When an 'education' system tries to gloss over such heinous crimes, our children are in danger. What kind of milieu will they grow up to?

Juvenile or not, such criminals - including the school officials and the parents who objected to the reporting, should be put behind bars. Not for a few months, a few years, or decades -- permanent, public incarceration. Yes, they ought to be jailed and displayed in public in cages. And pumas and leopards should be allowed to roam our streets -- they are a lot less damaging to this earth.

Posted by Ada, Marlborough, NH, USA on May 14, 2012:

We are all US. So true. I'm pretty sure the schools my kids attend are not this far gone; but my town's board of selectmen lost a lawsuit this year because they were doing business by email instead of at public town meetings, as required by law.

Posted by Steve, San Diego on May 14, 2012:

And what happens when the boy feels he can't or won't get support from adults and decides to take matters to the extreme on his own? "Well, since the staff at the school can't protect me, I'll just bring this .45 handgun to school in my packpack, just in case..."

---

There are arguments that this is exactly what happened at Columbine High School. Incessantly bullied until they snapped. Could be. And it wouldn't be surprising. -rc

Posted by Mike from Dallas on May 14, 2012:

I'm just blown away. 20th or 21st century, how does anyone condone the coverup of such behavior under any circumstances? However, I still see such mindsets as being a "snitch" because I see someone breaking into my NEIGHBOR'S house and call the cops. After all, it's not MY house, so why is it any of MY business? (I notice that my neighbor has never complained about me sticking my nose in it.)

But living all over the U.S. during my child and adult life, I've found that the traditional concept of "dumb rednecks" is NOT confined only to the deep South. They seem to be more known of it because of the typical small town environments there. But that seems to be what redneck mentality is, not southern, but small town. I've seen the same mentality in small town New England, small town New York state, Michigan, Iowa, yes, California, and apparently even Colorado.

While I won't stoop so low as to suggest in-breeding, I do note that the lack of outside ideas leads to inbreeding of thought. Apparently to toxic levels.

Posted by Doc, Mexico on May 14, 2012:

I "know" you (after being a subscriber since near the beginning of True) well enough to be able to imagine the rage and frustration you must feel when you come across a case like this. I also know that it must be even more disturbing to have it happen so close to home.

I HOPE there will soon be a number of vacant spots on the school board and faculty in Norwood. And I HOPE a sufficiently emphatic example is made of the idiots that thought it was okay to sweep something like this under the carpet, so as to discourage ANYONE from ever repeating such a thing!

And while I'm at it, I HOPE the boys that perpetrated this "act" upon the boy are jailed, as well. Yeah, I know... they're a product of their environment and upbringing... but let's not kid ourselves -- that didn't make them think it was okay, it just made them think they could get away with it!

Maybe a couple of years in the joint will teach them how their former team-mate felt. Callous of me? You bet! Tell it to the victim!

Posted by patty, calif. on May 14, 2012:

This story is appalling! I am not only an educator, but a mother of three boys, all wrestlers. We move often due to my husband's occupation and I see first-hand much of the things it takes to be accepted into a group of kids that has been together for a long time. I am surprised that teammates would treat each other like this. I have been very active in my children's education and supportive of their sports. The camaraderie I see within each sport has always been "you mess with one -- you better be prepared to mess with the whole team." I have seen this from soccer to baseball and mostly wrestling. Watching the kids at tournaments, interacting with kids from other schools, I see local rivalries but also respect...the wrestling boys all pile onto the warm up mats looking like a pile of puppies, in-between matches and also talking to kids from other schools.

We now live in CA. Land of the "we don't want to hurt anyones feelings". As a society it seems that we work harder to not offend others than to uphold laws and simple human values. I am still socked that this has happened in CO. I may not be as shocked if it had happened in CA -- but I send out my condolences to the victim and his family.

If incidences like this continue, we will eventually get to the point where society takes the law into their own hands. If that had been MY child -- Lord only knows what may have happened. As a result of this, I have shared this story with my boys and challenged them to stand up for what they know is right! If by some chance one of my boys was the one initiating this, God help them; regardless of being my own child -- I would feel compelled to see them prosecuted. Wrong is wrong. No excuses!!

---

I'm glad to see this story told to youngsters -- especially with such powerful messages from a parent. You're a good mom. -rc

Posted by courtenay, BC, Canada on May 14, 2012:

There really is NO hope for us if people support the perpetrators of this heinous crime. In a case like this we cannot stand back and remain silent. The boys who raped the victim need jail time. The school officials also need to be put behind bars. They are paid to be responsible for looking after our children. They not only failed the victim, they failed the other kids on the bus, they failed the entire school. Now no child can feel safe there. They also broke the law by not reporting it, and worse they basically tried to cover it up. And then absolved the criminals of responsibility for their crime by blaming the victim.

They must be removed from office immediately, they should be arrested, they should be replaced by officials who actually care about the safety of the children they are responsible for.

And people are divided on this issue along party lines? We are doomed.

Posted by Dan from Illinois on May 14, 2012:

Why are they referred to as "hijinks"? Talk about minimizing inexcusable behavior! Calling it "hijinks" does exactly that. High jinks are, according to Miriam-Webster, boisterous or rambunctious carryings-on: carefree antics or horseplay. If they were truly carefree, they wouldn't have been so vicious, cruel, and inhumane when they kidnapped, restrained, forcibly sodomized him. Words matter just as much as actions. If words are used to "excuse" somebody's actions, they are just as guilty as the perpetrators. The administrators should be charged along with the students who did this. As much as I despise ZT, even that would be better than what transpired with the administration here.

Posted by Geoff - Los Angeles on May 14, 2012:

I am horrified, but not surprised at all, that the townspeople are upset, not with the bullies, but with the family of the abused boy. Having grown up in a very small town, I know first hand that the code of silence is one of the most important things that holds such a community together. Anyone, no matter what the reason, who disrupts the status quo is to be expunged.

The same thing happens (or can happen) in any small, tight-knit group. You see it mostly in family units where there is sexual abuse. The abuser is shielded and the abused is vilified for "breaking apart the family" if they dare mention it to anyone, in or outside the group. That very thing happened in a branch of my own family that had become isolated from the rest of us due to joining a very conservative religious group. The child, who finally spoke out at the age of 18 when they saw the same thing happening to a younger sibling, was practically disowned by the rest of them. Thankfully, though, the abuser is now in jail, and will be for some time.

You also see it in what become cults. Am I equating a small, tight-knit community to a cult? Yes. In a cult, group-think outweighs any rational thought and that is exactly what is happening here.

I am saddened and often despair at the human condition.

Posted by Gert, South Africa on May 14, 2012:

The scary part about the second story, is that it reminds of a .

The schools initial reaction seems to be quite similar, although police incompetence seem to be the most shocking part.

---

A sad story indeed -- and only four days old. Just goes to show that it's not just Colorado, and indeed not just the USA. -rc

Posted by Camille, Montana on May 14, 2012:

""Us vs. them" needs to stop. We are all "us," dammit."

I couldn't put it better myself.

And also definitely agreed, not only do the perpetrators need to prosecuted but also the Norwood school officials who looked the other way and failed to follow the "duty to report" laws.

That there were attempts to excuse the failure to report actually reinforces the need to prosecute those school officials who failed to report. A responsibility is a responsibility -- doesn't matter if the person who crossed the line is a friend, opponent, or neutral. That responsibility still exists.

The letter to the editor from you & your wife regarding the Ridgway school board failing to comply with public meeting laws will probably result in some complaint letters -- and a lot of silent support. Hopefully there will be at least a couple people who will read your letter and start thinking "if Randy and his wife can do that, so can I."

---

That (your last sentence) was part of the point -- to break the silence. I've only heard one response: from a former school board member, who gave me a big thumbs up. -rc

Posted by Alan, VA on May 14, 2012:

I'll do my best to follow this, but I hope (as you have so often and effectively done in the past) that you update us on whatever aspect of this you can. Town hall meetings, criminal charges for school officials, victim recovery, whatever you can do to help keep us aware and on track.

With three children (only one crrently in school) your blogs and This Is True have done more to ensure my involvement with not only their education, but the schools themselves, than anything else. I was involved before I started reading.

This reinforces my commitment to doing all I can to keep it that way.

---

Frankly, I think you'd be foolish not to. I'll update the story as I hear things. And being so close geographically, I do expect to hear things! -rc

Posted by Dennis ~ Colorado Springs on May 14, 2012:

This sounds dangerously similar to (definitely worse than, but still similar to) the alleged "hijinks" reportedly and allegedly from Mitt Romney some 50 years ago.

Also, a suggested reading having to do with cults and groups and the mentality associated with them: The True Believer by Eric Hoffer.

Posted by Bill, Glendale CA on May 15, 2012:

I'm shaking my head in sad disbelief at all of this. Specifically in regards to access to public records, I assume that Colorado has "sunshine laws" similar to those in California. I serve as a commissioner in my city, and when I accepted that job I swore an oath: "I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State of California against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State of California; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties upon which I am about to enter."

The sunshine laws in California, including the Public Records Act, are part of the state constitution. Personal honor requires me to uphold my oath of office. My personal feelings, if any, regarding citizens requesting public records are not relevant. Any public official who ignores their oath of office due to personal feelings or inconvenience is a despicable creature bereft of honor, and unfit to hold public office.

---

If only more public office holders had your sense of ethics, Bill, we wouldn't be in so much of a mess. -rc

Posted by Shane in Texas on May 15, 2012:

I remember the sicko teacher from Ridgway! I was working in the jail at that time and could not believe the community support he received from a large number of residents from Ridgway. People were putting their property up for collateral to bond him out! We had to turn dozens of people away on visitation days. I just don't understand how people can support predators, bullies and sexual deviants. It's scary to think of what has gone on in these small towns over the past 100 years that has been covered up or not been reported!

---

To finish the story, the teacher was convicted and imprisoned. -rc

Posted by Martin Shrewsbury UK on May 15, 2012:

what is heart breaking about this is nothing changes in terms of school bullies. i ended up in hospital after being bullied. it went on for another year until one day I snapped and discovered after the event that I had a ferocity I didn't know about, after 30 minutes of being punched and jeered at I turned on the bully. it took 4 prefects, who had been in an adjoining room, to come in and they dragged my hands from around his neck. if we had lived in a country where firearms were common, i hate to think what may have happened.

---

And I'll bet what the bully said afterwards was, "He's crazy!" -rc

Posted by Kim A. from Norway on May 15, 2012:

I continue to be amazed with American school officials who seem to tout their insane ZT policies (and the equally-insane enforcement of these policies), and yet manage to break the law when it comes to sexual and violent crimes on their watch. It almost seems like these officials lose all common sense the second they start working in the American school system.

---

And it is spreading outside our borders. Speak up if you see it around you. -rc

Posted by Carl - Michigan on May 15, 2012:

Wow. Just Wow.

I read Robert A. Hienlien's "Starship Troopers" when young and impressionable but thought his espoused "Law of Evening" (punishment is the crime committed on the perpetrator while the public watched) was too draconian for modern humans. I must be getting old and bitter... I would support and even be involved in helping sodomize the 3 criminals AND the school faculty guilty of not reporting the crime. In the local stadium. With all surrounding communities invited to witness.

There is no excuse. This is NOT what humans do.

Thank you for your blog on this story and future updates. Keep fighting for a saner world -- we need it.

Posted by Peggy, Douglassville, Pa. on May 15, 2012:

First of all, I can't even find words to describe how I feel about this, so I won't even try. Second, why is there no Zero Tolerance directed at school officials? Third, this is a human decency issue not a political one.

My heart cries out for this child.
May the Lord have Mercy on our souls.

---

It shouldn't be a political issue, yet apparently it is. That's part of my outrage. This is what society can expect when -- for political reasons -- one side demonizes the other. They become sub-human, and worthy of atrocity. -rc

Posted by John, Arkansas on May 15, 2012:

I was saddened to read this. It never ceases to amaze me the depravity that is possible when one feels that he or she is "better" than others. The group-think of small minded places like this that will permit and even encourage this behavior by their belittling it. The whole tragic story made me actually physically ill. The idea that these "parents" would stand with predators because they are athletes and from "good" families. Let me prepare you for what you will see.

If they are prosecuted at all, the boys will most likely be prosecuted as juveniles, the parents have already indicated they have that much "clout". The issue will then be swept out of the public eye until these boys return from juvenile detention as even bigger predators because from the descriptions, they will be the bigger ones in juvenile detention. One or more of them will then kill. They will take the life of a stranger, or one of them will take the life of one of the others. Or, if we are lucky, they will have their life taken when they miscalculate and try something similar with someone who can and will defend themselves.

The victim in this will suffer for decades. He and his family will most likely end up leaving the area, and you will not be burdened with knowing of his trials and tribulations. It will include probably drugs, alcohol, an inability to trust, and a justifiable strong aversion to authority. It will likely include stints in jail. If he does not discover who he holds the hate in his heart for, he may even become a predator himself. And it will be difficult because the hate that even now is growing in his heart is for himself. For allowing this to happen to him. Son, if you by chance, read this. Know this: You have done absolutely nothing wrong and have NO reason to be ashamed.

What can stop this? People in the area, with power and influence, would have to step forward. They would have to stand shoulder to shoulder with this victim and insist on an adult prosecution of these budding predators, and everyone in authority who turned a blind eye. Even the ones who might not be guilty of a legal offense should be swept from their position of authority over youth, permanently. And this will be difficult, because I wager, if they go this route and shine the light deep into this decrepit school district, they will find an adult predator lurks. They will find him in close cohorts with these three young men. And their idyllic town will unravel at its very seams.

What do I base such predictions on? Experience. I have seen it first hand, second hand, and third hand over a period of decades in my own home town and ones like it across this country. I have lived it, slept with it, breathed it and puked it. When I said at the beginning that this made me physically ill, it was not literary license to get your attention, it was literal.

These adults should be made to understand their actions. If I could afford the trip, I would show them the physical scars. I would travel there and stand before them and unashamed drop drawers and let them see the visible physical scars that remain after 25 years. The pain, that does not leave, that will be with me until my dying day. What these young men did was not some "hijinks", it was an assault on the most basic of rights to be free in your person, free from harm and invasion. The right to say "No" and have it heard and respected.

Would I take pleasure from the fate these boys would face in an adult prison? The fact that they would soon experience much as their victim what that means to have someone take away your right to say no? I would take no pleasure from it. Indeed, it would sicken me as well deserved as it might be, the acts they would be subjected to by even larger predators than themselves. These are the times, that quite frankly, define who you are as a human being. Stand up for one who cannot stand up for him or herself and be a man or woman you can be proud of. Or, stand quiet on the sidelines, and be the coward I have known you to be for over 25 years.

---

While it's true that the perpetrators and their families are big fish in a terribly small pond, I have hope in that the initial crime took place in Denver. I don't know if the town's law enforcement had the gumption to prosecute this case, but you can bet Denver does, and Denver is a very big pond indeed, and some "high placed" jocks from the other side of the state won't be treated with any deference. That said, I'm afraid the rest of your scenario will turn out to be true unless the victim's parents are very, very wise -- and it sounds like they may be.

I also had the thought, immediately upon hearing about this, that the victim's family will have to leave the area. If the town had rallied around them and embraced them warmly, maybe not. But when even a tiny portion of the town instead embraces the perpetrators? I don't see how it's possible to stay. How sad that is.

Thank you, John, for having the courage to say how you know this scenario so well. That takes power away from your assailant(s), and is powerful testimony that those who have not walked in your shoes cannot deny. -rc

Posted by Miguel, CA on May 15, 2012:

Sadly, this also brings up the point that when someone in your group (familiy, clique, social status, etc.) does something to somebody outside, it's just hijinx and fun. I'll bet that the complaining parents would be the first one demanding blood if their children got hurt.

Sadly, empathy is as rare as common sense.

Posted by Danny, Florida on May 15, 2012:

"And despite those 'widely acknowledged similar incidents' in Norwood, nothing was done until a real crisis happened. A young boy is going to suffer for life..."

Wait, what about the other victims? If, indeed, there have been other "widely acknowledged similar incidents" who were the victims and perpetrators then? Will other young boys -- or girls -- be scarred for life over an UNREPORTED incident? Will other bullies go free?

And just who was acknowledging those other "widely acknowledged similar incidents"? School officials? Local media? Parents? And why did they go unreported at the time? This smacks of the Jerry Sandusky case: how long must this go on before something is done? How many people have seen something but turned away?

Someone said "we are doomed" after referring to a supposed political divide in Norwood. There may be a political divide. But I fear we may be doomed on much more fundamental grounds. I would expect a story about people not wanting to get involved in a much larger, impersonal city. But "population about 450"? Good God, people! What is wrong with you?

---

Excellent points and questions. I'm far enough away that I have not heard anything about other incidents, let alone how far they went. But it's probably true that if there is one case that was swept under the rug, there are others. After all, exactly where did those three boys get the idea to do this in the first place? -rc

Posted by Kurt, North Idaho on May 15, 2012:

You might be interested in the anti-bullying program that I recently heard about called "The Protectors" run by Paul Coughlin. It encourages everyone to stand up and oppose any kind of bullying behaviour.

Posted by Jeremy, San Diego, CA on May 15, 2012:

I kinda wish you hadn't put both of these on one page. Makes it harder to forward the link.

"Look at this serious issue, but first enjoy some boner jokes."

---

It's an extremely heavy story, and I felt the need to mix some comedy with the tragedy -- the ancient Greeks knew what they were doing to keep the two together. -rc

Posted by Camille, Montana on May 15, 2012:

I went to school in a small town; there are a lot of things that are nice about small towns, and a lot of things that can go very horribly wrong when it becomes clear the rules will be applied to people differently depending on what social class or social groups they belong to.

Taking a principled stand is sometimes not the easiest thing to do. But it is the right thing to do.

Taking a principled stand and publicly announcing it is even more difficult. But it is still the right thing to do.

You're already getting lots of "thank yous" and moral support from other people, but I wanted to send my own thanks and moral support as well.

---

Much appreciated. -rc

Posted by John, Arkansas on May 15, 2012:

Just for those who have little experience in this who are shocked that this is not the first such incident. These type of things do not happen in a vacuum. They progress and escalate over a period of years or decades. Do you truly believe three teenage boys woke up one day and said they were going to sodomize a young teen? No, they tested the boundaries again and again and found there were none.

I have watched similar events play out in other cities and states through the papers and other resources. And, of some 80 or so that I have taken the time to read and try to understand. I have only found ONE where there was no previous incidents leading up to the atrocity. In that case, I strongly suspect there were much smaller incidents that did preceed it, but there was no documentation of it. To have an incident like this occur out of the blue would surprise me greatly. It would prove the exception, not the rule. This is why it is so so so so, and I cannot stress this enough, SO important, to shine a light deep when something like this occurs and not let it fester and grow.

When you fail to shine that light, when you don't step up like human beings and rail against such treasons of the human soul, you abet it. You participate, just as if you were standing on that bus cheering these three ingrates on. You endorse and enable them to become bolder and more depraved. Until finally they will drag you into the sewer that is their darkest soul. Please, imagine that 13 year old standing there before you with the tears on his face.

Now, imagine you have the power to stop it. Because you do. YOU DO. When you see things such as this building, speak up. Be the asshole who makes a mountain out of the molehill. Speak up and break the silence of where this is leading. If they make the choice to abet this behavior, be the one that made them see it in advance where it was leading.

But how do I tell when it is crossing the line? It's very simple. NEVER is it alright to touch another without permission. (OK, a police officer perhaps in the course of his duties, but you get the point.) The law calls this assault, whether its poking or punching or shoving something up someone's anus. True, little ones will fight, and push and shove, but I think by the time they have two digits to their age, they should be taught better. Use your judgment, your adult sense of right and wrong. And if it's questionable, and you cannot make up your mind, bring in others to look at the situation as many as you can. Those whose judgment you respect and don't alike.

These type of incidents build and fester only in the darkness, never in the light.

Posted by Melodie, Washingon on May 15, 2012:

I agree with the outrage that's expressed on this page. However, we all need to remember that expressing outrage on an internet forum is only a tiny step towards change. How many of us are willing to do the hard work of holding our elected officials accountable? Read the agendas of the meetings, go to the meetings, speak out. If we don't, we are culpable for what they do in our name.

I don't do as much of that as I should. This is a good reminder. Randy, thank you for taking time to write to your local paper as well as reminding us of the need for eternal vigilance!

---

The function of "the media" is to get things started -- to inform the public to get the ball rolling. Yes, it's then up to the public to take action, including recall and replacement of the public officials who failed to do their jobs. That's exactly what is behind our letter to the editor that I mentioned: to let my own area's public officials know we're watching and expect them to comply with the law. You can bet we are now watching even more closely. -rc

Posted by Fred, South Carolina on May 15, 2012:

For what it's worth here is the way I see it. The "perps" (to include the school administrators) should be tried in an adult court. The victim should be sent to a hospital for mental evaluation and help. I think he will need the help found in the hospital as well as the support and love of his family. I fully believe this is one of the worse cases I have heard about in recent years. I hope the Denver courts agree and send these people up for the rest of their lives, they deserve it!!

---

The nearest hospital to Norwood is a 90 minute drive -- and it offers extremely limited mental health services. Yeah, the kid needs access to professional help, but shouldn't be forced into it ("sent to the hospital"). He's been forced enough already. -rc

Posted by Bob in Minnesota on May 15, 2012:

In the immortal words of Pogo Possum (as reported by Walt Kelly): "We have met the enemy and he is us."

When I read the article I felt there was something in the background that wasn't being reported. The mere thought of suspending the victim with the perpetrators implies malice and enmity, not just blindness and stupidity. Politics could well be it.

And politics, passed down to the younger generation, could well have been the motive for the rape, as well. I even wonder if the fact that the four were left "unsupervised" on the bus was completely accidental.

Posted by James, Regina, SK on May 15, 2012:

I'm surprised that people are surprised that the town got divided along political lines over this. Look at the Trayvon Martin/George Zimmerman case.

Also, I think it's almost certain that something similarly heinous happened to one or more of these alleged perps; otherwise where did they get the idea that they could get away with it? Ideally they should be punished, but hopefully in the course of all that, it becomes known what happened to them, and also what happened to those perps, and so on. How else do you stamp out this vicious hazing cycle?

---

By 1) Publicizing it and 2) getting a lot of people to express disapproval so that 3) the authorities take it seriously and stop it. -rc

Posted by Mike from Dallas on May 15, 2012:

Something about the reactions of the locals were vaguely familiar. Seems there was a blog item last year about a couple kids (17 & 15) who beat up a 13-yr-old SO badly that they broke his jaw. The father of the perpetrators was so upset that HE turned his own kids into the police: Father of the Year, Or?

The submitted thought was, "You don't turn in your own family members to the cops -- they will be convicted felons for the rest of their lives and they are only teenagers."

Very scary rationale for shrugging off a felony with a wink and a nod. And Philadelphia is not a small town, although they do seem to have an odd reputation for concern about their fellow human beings.

Posted by Brian, CT on May 16, 2012:

You know, I was just struck by a thought. What if, instead of trying to mailbomb the schools we mailbombed the victim -- with expressions of support and empathy? There's certainly enough of us out here. It could only help him to know that the world isn't stacked against him nearly as much as it might seem.

And, for my part, Randy, I have to thank you. As an eventual teacher/professor/etc., I will be watching out for this kind of behavior because you have made me aware of it. I will do everything I can to change the system from inside.

---

Great that you're more aware. There are two problems I can see with sending lovebombs to the victim: we don't know who he is, and there are enough sick people out there that if we did know, and published an address for him, that he'd get truly twisted mail. Not what he needs right now. Even if I learn his identity, I won't publish it. -rc

Posted by Jon, Ohio on May 16, 2012:

I just cannot understand how in these people's minds, other boys ass raping another younger boy is acceptable behavior!

If it was my boy that took part in this, he would have, at the very least, got his ass beat when I found out about it, and he'd definitely not be allowed to be on the wrestling team or take part in any school sports. I'd probably also force him to apologize to the boy and his parents.

If the parents supported this behavior by lashing out at the victim for reporting it, then perhaps they too should be held accountable too.

Posted by Wesley; Ashland, Oregon on May 16, 2012:

A forced apology is no apology at all. If the perpetrators feel humiliated in this fashion, they will, instead of feeling remorse, turn to resentment and anger, and may never be corrected.

I hate pretty much no-one. Abusers are the exception. If I had the chance (which is highly unlikely), I would beat the living daylights out of any abuser I came across.

Posted by Robert - Hickory, NC on May 17, 2012:

I can't believe the school officials and town have turned on the victim and his family. In this day and age with all the ZT Rules, how could anyone think this should be hushed up? You are right, the officials who did not obey the laws regarding duty to report should be prosecuted and banned from interacting with children again. They have shown they are not capable of protecting those they were entrusted to protect. What they did was criminally negligent and the victim and his parents should pursue civil litigation.

Posted by Dustin, Ohio on May 17, 2012:

I think I can possibly see where the dialogue on whether the victim deserved punishment came from. If the victim fought back at all and the school knew this fact it would warrant a one day suspension or at least detention in most schools I know of (any fighting at all -- including self-defense -- is forbidden, the aggressors usually get the worse punishment; but both sides are punished).

However, at the same time the schools I have known also tend to have a bit of a clause either written or merely practiced that MAY warrant fighting back in extreme situations (life and limb, etc). The catch being that the upper echelon of the school system always 'discusses it' even if the outcome is obvious.

Still though what I have read about this case certainly seems to be vilify the victim, which is a damn shame and no doubt is one reason why such victims are often scared to come forth.

Posted by Ami, ex-Colorado on May 18, 2012:

My hubby grew up in Nucla, I am from Montrose.

The really scary and sad thing to both of us is that we each personally knew kids who were molested by the same teacher. He just packed up and moved to a different school district each time rather than face prosecution.

---

Someone needs to have the guts to put a stop to it, eh? -rc

Posted by Sharon from Pennsylvana on May 18, 2012:

I have lived in a small town all my life, and, although I am appalled at what the school officials have done, I am not surprised.

I was bullied for the first 10 years of my schooling. Verbally bullied, but I still have the mental scars from it. At that time, the fact that most of the kids doing the bullying were from the wealthier families meant that the school turned a blind eye to what those children were doing.

They also turned a blind eye to the tenured teacher who was known for molesting any girls he could get alone. Something which continued until he retired, even though it was reported to the police several times. The police did nothing because he was from a politically connected family.

Even though that was more than 30 years ago, I have seen how little things have changed. Now, instead of politically connected, the ones feared are criminally connected. I have talked to teacher's aides who have been told to ignore the behavior of certain children because their families are too dangerous (in this case, drug growers/sellers) to deal with. These children, both male and female, know that they can do things like throw a desk at a teacher for giving them a low grade on the test they just failed, and the teacher gets told to pass them anyway. None of the teachers have the strength to report their behavior to the police, and the administration just throws away written reports.

I have personally reported the drug growing to both the local and state police repeatedly for the last several years, including detailed information on exactly where the growing is going on. Nothing has happened in the 5 years my family has been reporting it other than vandalism to our property. Nothing is done. Why? The primary grower has a brother in the state police, and his wife has cousins on the local force.

The primary result of our local school officials behavior has been a loss of students to homeschooling and cyber schooling. So many students have been lost that recently the state department of education came in to investigate and is now threatening to close the local school. Even though it would be a shame for the kids to have to be take long bus rides to reach other schools, it is actually something I hope happens for the sake of the innocents caught in a trap of fear.

School officials seem to be ruled by fear. Either of political connections, criminal connections, or fear of ridicule. Unless your small community is very lucky, you will find that fear rules. And when fear rules, law, justice, and fairness go out the window.

---

Local cops dirty? Go to the state. State cops dirty? Go to the feds. They'll enjoy taking down the dirty cops. -rc

Posted by Jay, Gambrills, MD on May 18, 2012:

I would strongly recommend that the bullies be classified as sexual predators, a nice lifetime certification. I say this since they did indeed act as a pack of predators! This should be a lesson to parents who condone the actions by blaming the victim rather than their children.

While this may be harsh treatment, when bullies see no consequences for their actions, then they will do it. With examples of consequences, parents may take a proactive role in being parents. If these bullies are classified as sexual predators, they will lose many opportunities and then their parents can have something to brag about now.

As to the adults who failed to report, they obviously are unqualified for their position ... it's time to give them other positions in the school. Depending on the existing law, maybe there needs to be a misdemeanor crime associated with non-reporting. And for considering a punishment for the victim, a personal civil suit should help them see the error of their negligence.

To the several that said they're glad their children are not in school; mine aren't but my grandchildren are.

Additionally, we all pay school taxes with the associated legal penalties. Some will say the insurance will cover the penalties. But we're also the ones paying for the insurance through our school taxes. By not reacting, you are accepting the liability of situations like this.

Posted by Austin, Ridgway, CO on May 18, 2012:

I am glad you fully disclosed what happened. The articles that I have read, like the one from The Watch and the Plaindealer, seemed vague as to what happened. As a result, I think a lot of local folks just assumed that it was just mild case of hazing being blown out of proportion by the liberal media.

Posted by Michael Albuquerque on May 18, 2012:

In New Mexico we had a similar incident, with a similar first response. However the media got ahold of it and the resulting public pressure forced the authorities to pursue the matter and eventually the perpetrators did go to jail, and the coaches involved got fired.

At any rate I find that after the many incidents you report in This is True, about Zero Tolerance where kids get suspended or even tossed out of school for very minor incidents such as bringing toy solders to school, and these idiots felt a one day suspension for rape was appropriate, makes my skin crawl.

Posted by Vern, Salt Lake City Utah on May 18, 2012:

I too have subscribed to "True" since almost the first year. It is with this in mind that I write now. You have written so extensively on "ZT", zero tolerance. You have highlighted the idiomatic policies of school districts all over this country so eloquently as zero sense. Now this.

This is evil. Evil in the perpetrators and evil in the cover up. The young victim is completely blameless in this and there are really no "sides" in this. There is right and there are douche bags. The douche bags deserve no quarter. This is criminal and God surely had His hand in this situation. The story acknowledges that this wasn't or isn't an isolated event. In Norwood these people have had free reign. Now by the grace of God, Denver is involved and hopefully a bunch of people will go to prison. Maybe they can make a special Norwood compound in Cañon City.

---

Cañon City is the home of several state and federal prisons. -rc

Posted by Mika, Helsinki (Finland) on May 18, 2012:

Wow, this case really woke me up, and brought up some painful memories. Let me try to explain.

Until 2007, Finland knew little of school shootings. Only in the U.S. we used to say. Then came the incidents at Jokela and Kauhajoki, claiming nearly 20 lives. Both cases were (at least in part) results of bullying and exclusion.

While this case didn't -- as of yet -- claim any lives, I fear the next step from this to murder will not be a very big one. I also fear that things will get a lot worse before they will get better. I believe this is because the community as a whole no longer cares of the individuals. One is lucky to have a handful of friends that care.

As a two-time victim of violence (ages 9 and 19), an ear-witness to a similar case in my immediate vicinity and as a recent father, I couldn't stop reading the comments. The similarities in this case and the in the comments compared to my own are numerous. My attacker at 3rd grade was from a rich family, and the case was totally swept under the rug. The incident in my immediate vicinity was hushed up too, and the ramifications surfaced only many years later.

I believe it is my upbringing which has prevented me from becoming a school shooter or a bully, and I thank my parents for it. I now know that I will teach my children to speak up when they see something wrong. This is something adults, too, should be reminded of from time to time.

"All that is required for evil to prevail is for good men to do nothing."

---

I don't think it's likely this particular situation will get worse before it gets better, since it has escaped the confines of its insular local bubble. Outsiders (investigators and prosecutors from Denver) are involved now, and excuses that might have been accepted by the locals don't wash with the outsiders. That outside perspective and attention will force a change. That's why it's so important to pay attention when such things come to light. The worst possible thing that could have happened here is apathy. The kid is abused and tells a school official. Nothing happens. That proves to the kid that he's powerless. The kid tells his parents, they take it to authorities, and nothing happens? That proves his parents are powerless too, and any remaining hope is destroyed. Happily, that didn't happen here, and we have both the Denver authorities and an outspoken local newspaper to thank for that. -rc

Posted by Arthur, NJ on May 18, 2012:

I can't believe no one among the many commenters suggested legal action! Surely some lawyer, probably from out of town so he would be immune from retaliation, could be found to sue the parents of the perpetrators, the school board, the others who took no action -- there must be many legal and civil violations here. Some lawyer must be outraged enough to offer his services, pro bono if necessary. Sue the bastards!

---

Robert in Hickory, NC did bring it up (perhaps others; I didn't look carefully), but it's too early. Let the criminal system work, then decide what to do. They may well get all the satisfaction needed without resorting to the horrific ordeal of a lawsuit. -rc

Posted by Tom, Indianapolis,IN on May 18, 2012:

This could be a nearly carbon copy of the incident that happened several years ago in Carmel, Indiana, a wealthy community full of lawyers and corporate execs and top government officials (and a governor). At first the incident was ignored, the tapes from the bus went missing and everybody was sent home, then the tapes showed up, edited somewhere along the line. The local news wouldn't let it go, thankfully. The wheels up there grind slowly and once the news got hold of it, things started to move. But the locals moved faster and it would seem to have been taken care of, no criminal charges at first, then later there were charges, mostly due to public outcry and the local news. One kid confessed, the others eventually did too, as plea bargains. After a year, it was all but forgotten, nobody went to jail, no trials, none of the criminals lost their university scholarships, and only a few hours of community service were handed down. There was a lot of talk about a lot of money being passed around, and that included some for the victim and his family, no matter, one kid's life destroyed by a group of deviates, and the only one blamed seems to always be the victim.

Now this happens, and I'm wondering if they will use the Carmel Indiana case as a precedent for the school and police doing nothing and for the criminals to receive little or no punishment.

---

No, since cases in Indiana have no bearing on cases in Colorado. Clearly, though, the attitude isn't isolated to one place. Kudos to your local news team. Just like the Telluride newspaper, it shows the importance of a free press in our society to shine light on the malfeasance of public officials. -rc

Posted by Geoff, Sydney on May 18, 2012:

Reading all the outraged comments, I'm surprised that nobody has picked up on the actual point here. It is simply that education policies and regulations are made solely to serve officials, not to serve children in the system, and certainly not to serve their education.

Yes, the crime is heinous, but is anyone surprised by the reaction of the officials? After decades of being told again and again just how untouchable they are, why should we be shocked when they disregard the law, and ignore their personal and professional responsibilities, in order to shelter some favoured students from justice?

ZT and its associated policies have trained teachers and officials to abdicate any responsibility. It is institutionalised disregard for human rights, compassion and duty of care.

And you people (yes I'm pointing the finger at YOU, voters in the US and elsewhere) are as much to blame for these outcomes as the perpetrators themselves, and the immoral school officials that try to sweep such crimes under the rug.

Talk to your mayor, talk to your senator, talk to anyone you can get to. Tell them that you, and your friends, and your friends' friends, will be voting against them and even CAMPAIGNING against them unless they support specific policies to remedy the diseased education system.

Randy said: "Someone needs to have the guts to put a stop to it, eh?"
Well guess who that someone is?

An education system designed to serve officials has failed us. Maybe it's time to try something designed to serve our children? As Seth Godin says, our kids are too important to sacrifice to the status quo.

Since I prefer constructive criticism to just plain criticism, here is a link to Seth Godin's Education Manifesto, which provides a possible path to a better way of educating our children.

Posted by Jim, Arlington, Texas on May 19, 2012:

I have been saying for at least the 62 years since I first started teaching that the one most incompetent group of people in America are school administrators. Every week something like this happens to prove it all over again.

I'm glad I got out of the teaching profession after only five years and seven months -- I quit one April Fools Day because of a fool for a principal.

Posted by Colin, Emu Plains, Sydney, Australia on May 19, 2012:

In cases like this, where he has them can Randy publish the emial addresses or websites of the morons/institutions involved without getting into trouble? I'm sure some of us would like to drop an email or two.

---

As I've discussed before, mailbombing the schools involved is not the answer. -rc

Posted by Karl in Los Altos on May 19, 2012:

"The school's students and parents are outraged -- not at the criminals, but at the victim and his parents for reporting the assault."

My first reaction to this was: Is there another side to this story? Are these outraged people of the opinion that what I just read is not an accurate reporting of the facts? How else could any thinking person be outraged at the victim and his family?

Then I read the quote about the cultural divide on this case. OK, now I can see what might be happening. My guess is that it's the conservatives who are siding with the alleged bullies, and the liberals who are siding with the alleged victim -- because it's a case of "queer-bashers" against "queer-lovers". Even if the boy was heterosexual, being smaller and weaker is enough to be perceived as gay, and in the minds of the bullies and their families, ass rape is not a serious assault because, after all, "that kind of person does it all the time, and likes it".

Now, I recognize that since I lean towards liberalism myself (and accept the "queer-lover" label as literal, as I do indeed have several loved ones in the LGBT community), it's natural for me to assume that it's the good guys who were liberals and the bad guys who were conservatives; the quote doesn't say one way or the other. Is this just my personal bias? I'd like to hear from someone else who thinks it's likely that the ones defending the perpetrators are liberals, and the ones defending the victim are conservatives. Can the conservative readers construct a scenario that supports the divide going that way?

---

An interesting question. I don't know which way the divide is, and speculation wouldn't really illuminate the issue. You are probably right that the mentality is "that kind of person does it all the time, and likes it". Of course, the same mentality can be used to justify the rape of a heterosexual woman, too, eh? You still don't want it happening to your mother, or wife, or daughter. -rc

Posted by butch in Texas on May 19, 2012:

Wow. You do NOT hurt the kids ever, and you ALWAYS come to their rescue when they need it. What was done to this little fella by the adults seems almost worse than the rape.

This would be a good story to write a made for tv movie script so many more can see what is happening. Maybe then something would be done to stop this kind of thing from happening again. Humans sure can be a sorry lot at times.

Sad and disgusted.

Posted by James, Palm Bay FL on May 19, 2012:

Just wanna say thank you for having the free service. I would never have thought I could have found a person whom thinks more like me than I do. In reference to these articles, Boner should be broke and maybe set loose on the aggressors in the second. The fact you chose to bring the two together instigated my response. I'm not sure when I chose comedy to "ease the pain" but it works for me and many people I know. Seeing the humor, as opposed to not, your take on life is welcome to me. Others could (and can) take your views as derogatory. I Sir, want to thank you for who you are, and the thought inspiring articles you write.

Posted by Dave, Grand Haven MI on May 19, 2012:

Had that been MY kid?

Your funeral. My trial.

Posted by Richard, Comox, BC on May 19, 2012:

This is a sad commentary on society and how low and polarized we have become. But it took place in a small community, and it seems to me these small communities tend to be more Godfearing and church-going than the big cities. The church is a far stronger influence on the town (a generalization I admit). So I have to ask, What have the local churches done? Have they commented, consoled or remonstrated with the parties involved? Have they tried to explain the morality of the situation? Today we need the church (and other Faiths too) more than ever. We cannot rely upon elected or appointed officials at any level for any sort of guidance (nor is it really their job). So now in our hour of need what have the churches done? Or are the ministers merely lying low and avoiding the isses for fear of alienating parts of their congregations?

Randy, you're a local chap, please tell us what is happening on this front, we know the political dimension. Thanks, and thank you for raising this to the level you have.

---

You've raised an interesting question! I don't know the answer: I haven't seen any mention of the local churches regarding this. However, I do know the Senior Pastor of the biggest church in Ridgway, and I'll ask him about it. -rc

Posted by Lynn, Salt Lake City, UT on May 19, 2012:

Reminds me of a comic strip that ran in the '70's:

I have seen the enemy, and it is us.

---

"We have met the enemy and he is us." --from Pogo by Walt Kelly. The link gives the context. -rc

Posted by Bianca, Tennessee on May 19, 2012:

This made me so angry I wanted to scream. I pray for all those involved, especially the 13 year old young man.

The school board and coach need to be in jail along with the kids that did this. This could not have been the first time these kids did something like this. Other things should have told the parents that these youngsters were in trouble and needed help. The parents need to be prosecuted also.

I hope the victim's family sue the heck out of everyone involved, then maybe they would have enough money to get him some therapy so he can fulfill all the potential he was born with. My prayers and thoughts are with you young man. Don't let the actions of others force you off the course of excellance.

Posted by Ken --Chicago, IL on May 19, 2012:

Why haven't you sent this on to the Feds and/or the National TV reporters and/or Denver Invetigive Reporters who would have a field day with this?

You should also know that the Anti-Defamation League to which my wife belongs, has a very well known anti-bullying program that offers many different services to school systems and has received numerous commendations from local police departments all over the United States.

---

This has already been covered by the Denver media. -rc

Posted by Tom, the Carolinas on May 19, 2012:

"Mandatory reporting" laws fail because they are not enforced, and enforcement is necessary.

Educators could argue that being forced to report incidents will earn them enemies, which will hurt their careers. But we all have to keep in mind that "the safety of our children while in the school system" is not only the first thing in the minds of the parents.

"The safety of our children while in the school system" is supposed to be the Most Important Goal Of The School System Employees.

"Supposed to be". But it isn't.

I could refer you to what I wrote in your 2010 blog entry, Patrick Timoney's Gun: "Parents need to insist that the children cannot be walked on without consequences. Parents need to ensure those consequences."

Given a choice between doing right by a 13 year old, or getting a school administrator mad, of course the officials here stopped short of calling in the police. It is the parents that have to object to that -- but in this case, the father works in the school system.

That is why it is necessary (yes, required) that the State actually send these officials to jail. Their careers must be cut short -- because "the safety of our children while in the school system" is not some abstract concept, it is a required part of their job.

If they are not reacting even after one of their charges was sodomized while bound in the back of a school bus, then they are failing at their responsibilities, and if the adult population fails to get them removed, then the adult population is failing at their responsibilities as well.

Randy, your rant is really a public stand. Thanks for providing a forum here.

Posted by Ken, Virginia on May 19, 2012:

I am normally a calm person that obeys and respects the law, but if that had happend to my child I would probably resorted to violence. Esp. after the lack of action by all concerned. Shame on them all. Perhaps they will all spend time in jail and find out what it is like to be bullied and worse.

Posted by Vlad - Bosnia and Herzegovina on May 19, 2012:

Even in my backward country this would be a reason enough to jail a bunch of people and throw away the key.

First, these underage criminals should be tried as adults. Second, school officials who were aware of this should be put on trial and jailed. Third, this poor boy and his parents should sue their a**es off in court.

Pack all of these retards in a jail with some lonely, hung boys so they can experience first hand what they did to this poor boy.

Posted by JL Missouri on May 19, 2012:

There is an old form of punishment that should be revived for school officials that hide such a crime. They should be tied to a post and given 100 lashes with a bull whip for starters. Then 20 years in prison without parole.

---

I'm wondering if, by now in this long string of strong comments, any school officials reading this are starting to get the idea of what people really think? And that's the true utility of pages like this: not to fix what happened to one kid who was horribly abused both physically and mentally, but rather to reduce the chances of it from happening to other kids. -rc

Posted by Liz, Massachusetts on May 19, 2012:

What would've happened to that 13-year-old if his father *hadn't* been a school official?

I wish I could say I was surprised, but I'm not. I grew up in a town where the mayor, 2 Catholic priests, and a youth minister went to jail for raping kids. This was before the big child molestation scandal hit the Boston Archdiocese. When an organization responds to child abuse allegations by rallying around the suspect, it makes you wonder what else they're hiding.

Posted by Camille, Mahomet IL on May 19, 2012:

This scenario is what happens when success in ATHLETICS is value above, and has more supporters than, success in ACADEMICS. A battle I weigh in on every school year with my local CUSD#3 Mahomet-Seymour (Central) IL. Want to stop it? Get vocal. Attend your district's school board meetings. Speak out. imho, that's the best way to force change.

Posted by Cheryl, Rochester, NY on May 19, 2012:

My heart breaks for the victim, who was raped twice: once by the other boys, and again by the district. Every person involved in the crimes should stand trial and do time. Those who would be pi**ed at the victim and his supporters disgust me so intensely there aren't words. Cranio-rectally inverted, the whole lot of them.

Posted by Chris, Florida on May 19, 2012:

Much as the administrators failed in their positions, I fully blame the parents for raising kids that would do such a thing. While I wasn't the best father in the world, when my son got into some trouble, I taught him to man up and drove him right to the police station. I told him to face the consequences and get it behind him. I could have lawyered up, but that would have been a disservice as a parent and to my son's development as an adult. He is now happily married, a father and a productive member of society. Now back to the administrators, jail time, pronto!

Posted by Mike from Dallas on May 19, 2012:

Regarding the mailbombing suggestion, I have to agree it's a bad idea. This is an incident that's already been made public. The guilty people know where they sit. Now it's just a matter of whether or not they can ride it out. Hopefully not, but that's out of our control.

As I said, THIS issue is already public. But it's not an isolated incident, much as you'd like to hope it is. And ZT is also not an occasional abberation. All of these kinds of events happen on a daily basis. You can't bury your head and reassure yourself that it doesn't happen in YOUR neighborhood. You'd better believe that it DOES. So the question becomes, not what you can do about an incident that's been made public, but how to prevent future incidents of this nature. And THAT, folks, is the painful reality of futility.

As an instructor, I have as much an obligation to teach mental discipline as physical discipline. One of the signs in my studio reads, "Doing what's easy isn't always right; and doing what's right isn't always easy." Trite, sure, but true.

The courage of your convictions is easy while in your own comfort zone. But faced with imminent threat, will you still hold true to your beliefs? Even just the vague fear of threat? Even just the risk of ostracization by your neighbors? It's easy for a raucous "majority" to beat down a lone voice who disagrees with such a vocal group.

I've heard the rationale that we must "choose our battles wisely." That we must "decide if THIS is the hill upon which we choose to die today." Well, when I'm right, they're ALL the hills that I choose to die on today! My convictions don't change with expedience.

But even I am not invincible, nor without fear. So I know it's not easy to follow the path I'm suggesting. Not everyone has the means or fortitude to face conflict without care of retaliation. But that IS how you keep these kinds of incidents from becoming more common, in YOUR neighborhood. You get involved. You associate with others who share your convictions. That way, you're not alone, and it may be YOUR group that is the raucous majority to make things right.

Posted by Lynne, Troutdale, OR on May 19, 2012:

I am just very glad that Randy has an extra helping of guts to help keep stories like this out in the open so those of us who care can continue to advocate for policy change.

It's what will, if anything, help the victims of these awful incidents retain some faith that some humanity, at least, wants what's right to happen.

Posted by Richard in Baltimore on May 19, 2012:

This reminds me of a book I read a decade ago called "Our Guys", about the Glen Ridge NJ high school football team raping a mentally handicapped girl with a baseball bat, and the vehemence with which the town and the school defended them, despite years of their class being the most egregious bullies and beneficiaries of the "sports exception" to rape rules. Bernard Lefkowitz was an investigative reporter for a New York newspaper and covered this incident extremely well: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glen_Ridge_rape#Our_Guys_the_book

Posted by Robin, Hobart Australia on May 19, 2012:

Keep the blowtorch to their bellies, Randy.

Just because this sort of thing is not usually reported, the officials in charge think they can get away with unconscionable behaviour. We probably will not be allowed to know whether the older boys were related to the school officials who tried to suppress the story, sadly.

Posted by Scott in Michigan on May 19, 2012:

My first reactions to this article was much the same as everyone else, an emotional/visceral feeling of absolute outrage against such a heinous crime committed against a child by other children.

After that came the outrage at the administrators and authorities for denying both the victim and the perpetrators due justice. "Innocent until proves guilty" is how our justice system is supposed to work. By aquiring all of the facts then a decision can be made as to what form justice may take. I am in no way condoning or supporting either side in this case, but I would like to see Justice served properly.

By only the reports and rumors getting released, we have allowed our initial reactions to rule instead of getting ALL THE FACTS (both sides, good and bad). This has led to "Judge Lynch and his jury" to try the case in public and suddenly we have "Guilty until proven innocent". This does a greater disservice to ourselves than most realize, for it is a slippery slope to fall down into moral outrage and mob justice.

Posted by Neil Australia on May 20, 2012:

So much went wrong. Where to start?

The victim is the one to repair.

The community needs a code of conduct.

Smaller penalties and convictions are better than nothing.

Posted by Robert in Missouri on May 20, 2012:

Having been subjected to a milder version of harassment by a bunch of idiot rednecks because I was a member of the "wrong religion" when I was a rugger in junior high and high school, I'd say that kid was lucky it got handled like it did. In my case, it took some string-pulling by my rabbi (Yes, I'm a Jew) and some effort behind the scenes to get the harassment stopped one year. The kids responsible for the harassment and the adults who aided and abetted them were never punished because their parents had money; some of the kids (most noticeably the worst of the lot) didn't come back the next year, but there were several students, a couple of teachers, a counselor, and an assistant principal who should have been given the boot with people in the last three categories being blacklisted.

Posted by Anker, Germany on May 20, 2012:

When he was 13 two of my sons' classmates tried to do the same to him with a pencil. The headmaster dismissed it as "boys pranks". We then turned to the public prosecutor and filed a complaint against the two perpetrators.

The two aggressors got a slap on the wrist, but knowing one of them I wonder if he ever understood.

The next move by the headmaster caught us by surprise: He tried to expell my son because of the school's lacking confidence in his parents because we had brought the law into the case. We contacted a lawyer who just wanted the school to place its complaint and decision in writing. They did not. Unfortunately because then we could have sued them and probably won.

My son did not leave the school, because the alternative would be two hours drive extra each day. At first he was devastated in the wake of the incident, but because we fast got him at good psychotherapist and through our actions showed him our full support, he came through stronger and with a healthy distrust of people demanding respect instead of earning it.

---

That last part is a good thing to learn at such an age. -rc

Posted by Jonathon (Taiwan) on May 20, 2012:

Sounds like a Bible story. Didn't King David do nothing when Absolom's sister was raped by her half brother? And did nothing when Absolom killed the man? I wonder if this wasn't related to his own past.

Perhaps the case is similar here...

And then: >>LaFramboise, who is also the school’s football coach, persisted in the face of resistance from the school board and administrators in reporting to police the Feb. 16 incident that led to the filing of felony sexual assault and kidnapping charges against the three alleged assailants.
>> Persons with knowledge of the situation told The Watch that LaFramboise would not have his contract renewed.
(From Tensions Persist in Norwood in Wake of Sexual Assault Charges)

Am I missing something here Randy? Is the person who followed the law about to lose his job?

---

Considering the story, this would surprise you? On the other hand, the school district's attorney denied that report. -rc

Posted by Katy Athens, GA on May 21, 2012:

I'm guessing that the school district and parents were upset about the reporting because it somehow negatively affected their precious sports teams in some way. In small towns, sports is the have-all and end-all for way too many people. I remember when I was in high school that our football players could get away with just about anything -- our star quarterback would frequently come to games drunk, and everyone looked the other way. Of course, if anyone who wasn't a sports star got into even the mildest of trouble, everyone would rise up and point fingers -- but not against the sports stars. And woe unto you if you should try to make things equal! I suspect this is a similar situation, and it makes me SICK. People wonder why I have such a hate-on for sports in general -- here you go. Perfect example.

Posted by Larry, Nevada on May 21, 2012:

Of course school officials didn't do anything about it. What school cares more about their students than they do about a winning sprorts team?

Posted by Doc, Mexico on May 21, 2012:

I think it's worth mentioning that while an occurrence like this evokes some very emotional responses, it also ticks off a lot of dedicated educators and school administrators out there. Especially those that haven't yet plunged their heads "where the sun don't shine".

Randy's efforts to shine light on this situation certainly is important. And our willingness to share it with others will undoubtedly help get attention to the situation. But I think we need to be cautious not to jump to the conclusion that the vast majority of educators are as unable/unwilling to provide our kids with the protection they deserve when in their care. I know many, and have shared this with several of them, and believe me, their reactions were as angry and incredulous as those in the comments here.

And some of those ticked off teachers and administrators may be in a position to take the helm and lead their obliviot cohorts in the right direction.

---

And I don't doubt there are good teachers in Norwood, too. Hopefully this gives them strength to speak out. -rc

Posted by (Name Withheld), Rutherford County on May 21, 2012:

I wanted to tell you that Mr. Boner WON the election in Rutherford County, TN. Unfortunately, I work in that county.

---

I have withheld the name of the commenter, who I confirmed (by looking up her IP address) works for the local school district. A definite case of voters getting the politicians they deserve, I guess. -rc

Posted by Tom, MN on May 21, 2012:

This story reminds me of a line from the animated movie, Titan AE. An alien character says "I weep for the species." So do I.

Posted by Margaret, Denver, CO on May 21, 2012:

My daughter is now an adult. When she was in 8th grade in the Denver school district, she was the only "out" bisexual in the school. She was called names, pushed into lockers, pushed down stairs. She was strong and trained in martial arts, but one can not take on twenty. When her father went to school with her shortly after Christmas break, the principal looked him in the eye and said "We don't have a bullying problem." He pulled her from school that day and we unschooled her.

After reading this, I suspect if we had kept her in school in that environment, she would have been raped at least once before she finished high school. That horrifies me.

She's a bright, strong woman, though she doesn't have a diploma. I think she has a better sense of self and is stronger for having her parents support her and believe her when she was assaulted at school. Since we are retired, we've already promised to keep the school accountable when she has children, even if it means going to school with a grandchild. We unfortunately don't trust the Denver school district to improve -- they have a graduation rate of less than 50%.

Posted by Ross, Washington State on May 21, 2012:

What happened to the kid made me so mad I can't even write how I feel about it. But to even consider suspending the victim made me so mad. Gah it's so stupid. I hope they throw the whole Library at them not just the Book.

Keep up the great work Randy. I have subscribed for many years. I am going to go take a walk to calm down, Things like this make me so mad.

---

Good -- because if you catch even a hint of something like this in your local schools, you're much more likely to jump in and make sure the kid is protected, and stand with the parents who are fighting the hard battle for the right side of things. -rc

Posted by Joseph, Rochester, NY on May 21, 2012:

So, I just got off the phone with a friend of mine who also lives in Colorado (up in a small town in Phillips County, about as far apart from Norwood as you can be and still be in the same state) who said that he was disgusted... but not surprised.

After my wordless exclamation, he explained what he meant. He had several related points on this: money, the religion of sports, and the code of silence in small towns.

First, as he cynically put it, is the money; small towns are becoming rarer as they become economically unnecessary; a team of high school athletes reaching the state championships brings in money to their home town; if the state sports commission decides to ban the town from participating in state championships... well, as my friend put it, that might be the straw that will end up destroying the town; parents will move away to a place where their children [i]will[/i] have a chance to participate, which may become a feedback loop that results in another ghost town in the mountains.

That led to the second point, the religion of sports; as he so cynically put it, apparently there's something of a belief that simply sending your children to school alongside a star athlete might make something rub off on them, so to speak. This apparently brings people and money into these small townships; when one of the local teens in his town decided against accepting a college football scholarship, apparently people reacted as if someone had died, and the backlash against the family was enough that they ended up moving away.

Thirdly is the code of silence in these small towns. According to my friend, one of the "landed gentry", as he put it, decided to have some fun one day and shot my friend's dog, and he was told by others not to make a fuss, not to rock the boat, just to accept it and get another dog. Apparently there's a massive amount of social pressure to keep up appearances that everything is fine and dandy, which allows the rich, corrupt and powerful to get away with crap like this.

That was my friend's reaction.

My reaction to his cynical explanation was far simpler.

If the town is that complicit, that enabling, because they feared losing something like a sports championship, then they should lose it regardless. The little monsters that perpetrated the crime should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, and the adults that tried to shield them should be as well. And if that ends up destroying the town, because of lack of money or population leaving for greener pastures, then that is their own fault for trying to cover it up in the first place. I will feel sorry for the people that were not complicit in the crime or the coverup for the damage done to their community, but at the same time, perhaps this will also give them the chance to find someplace with a better moral compass. But for the people that enabled this and tried to cover it up, or worse, support the perpetrators out of some twisted sense of loyalty or entitlement? They should have their fears of "losing the championship" realized and executed.

---

I like your take better than your friend's. I don't think all small towns are like that; Ridgway certainly doesn't seem to have such an environment. When it got wind of a pedophile teacher, they brought in an outside investigator, who made the case and made the arrest (and the teacher is still in prison, last I heard). That's healthy, in my opinion. -rc

Posted by Cathy in Texas on May 22, 2012:

I want to say first that this is a horrible, horrible, horrible crime that was committed, and even more horrible that the victim is facing ostracism and blame.

Why are we surprised? This is what has happened to rape victims for centuries, primarily women. Now, finally, in the last few decades, it's being acknowledged. Sometimes.

Oh, but it gets even better. In some countries and religions, not only is the victim blamed, her family kills her because of the shame she has brought on the family.

Now this religious law is invading the so-called Christian nations. If I remember correctly, both France and England have communities where religious law is not only tolerated, it's being considered to become somewhat legal under the guise of religious freedom.

Thank God for those brave souls fighting back, here and abroad!

Posted by Marjolein, Netherlands on May 23, 2012:

Sorry that I am not surprised, though I am appalled.

This story indeed shows a dark side of humans, especially in small isolated communities. A sunshine Law is not always enough to get the darkness out. Then it takes also the commitment of 1/more persons to act. So keep up the good work and explain to people why and what to do, Randy. I think that will get a lot more people will to act, and thereby get the world (1 small community at the time) to a higher level of civilization.

Though humans will be humans, so don't be surprised at other sad (bad) exceptional behaviours. Or read more This is True and be prepared for life, the universe and humans.

Posted by Cheryl, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada on May 24, 2012:

I really wonder if one of the boys who did the raping might happen to be a son of a school official. I just can't fathom these 'supposedly intelligent' people turning the other way when this poor child is going to be affected the rest of his life because of what these juvenile delinquents did to him. The thought of them even thinking of punishing the victim too makes me sick to my stomach. What a barbaric bunch of school 'leaders'. They should ALL be fired and sent to jail!

Posted by Steven in Texas on May 24, 2012:

I hope that everyone across Randy's readership that knows someone in Colorado has forwarded this issue to them. It is most important that school officials at all levels, law enforcement at all levels, State and local tourism officials, state representatives, and all commerce related entities be informed about the backward thinking and actions taken by the adults in this situation. (If you can't reach them on the morality level, then get their attention in the mind space that they actually live in. Sad but True!)

While you are forwarding -- do the same for your own state. You may happen to know the child you save from pain.

---

An alternative is to send them to this page. Seeing the reader reaction is important too, I think. -rc

Posted by Wesley; Ashland, Oregon on May 25, 2012:

In response to Karl in Los Altos:

I certainly can't speak for/about the political divide in Norwood, but please don't over-generalize regarding the difference between Liberals and Conservatives. I am a Conservative (moderate, I think) and I would never side with the perpetrators. No one should be made to suffer because of their philosophical choices, beliefs, or such -- only criminal acts, which infringe on the rights of others, should be condemned.

Isn't it odd, though, that, at least in fiction, we see bullies give outcasts 'what they deserve' -- homosexuals being raped, for example. What's queer in these examples is that the anti-homosexual bullies actually become homosexual in the way that they 'punish' the 'offender' (sodomization).

Posted by Jim in Winnipeg on May 25, 2012:

For a similar story in Canada please see Bottles tied to genitals in Manitoba hockey hazing.

---

This hazing, as bad as it is, doesn't for me rise to the level of forced sodomy. But it does show this sort of ridiculous behavior is indeed not limited to Colorado, or the U.S. -rc

Posted by David, Australia on May 26, 2012:

John, Arkansas, said:

"...The idea that these "parents" would stand with predators because they are athletes and from "good" families..."

Yeah right. The families are so good they probably gave them money, cars, smart clothes....anything except a sense of values or even of right and wrong.

John's quotes round "parents" and "good" in his post are very well placed. Neither word deserves to be used.

---

I think that was his point, but you made it explicit. -rc

Posted by Eugene - Elmwood Park, NJ on May 26, 2012:

I have sat on for a while, this trying to avoid a wholly emotional response. I have failed.

I fear that I would be willing to be part of a lynch mob, maybe even leading it.

Both the three young men who attacked the young man and the "adults" that tried to sweep it under the rug need to be condemned. The perperprators need to be tried as adults and treated as the predators they are. The "adults" need to be thrown out of office, have criminal charges brought against them, and an example made of them all so that the next administrator that is faced with something like this will know the the price for trying to protect their jobs or image is too high to pay.

The emotional price for the justified lawsuits is just too high for the victim and his family to have to endure.

Thanks Randy for bringing cases like this to our attention.

Posted by Bill, Fort Worth, TX on May 26, 2012:

I can't add anything that hasn't already been said, so I won't try. However I do want to add my support by saying how appalled, frustrated, and enraged the behavior of these supposedly adult leaders and parents makes me. As has been said repeatedly already, both the three perpetrators and the adults who tried to hide the crime should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. I am absolutely at a loss for words to say how much I despise parents and others who consider such things to be harmless pranks.

Please keep on keeping us posted.

Posted by Mati, Israel on May 28, 2012:

When I was in eighth and ninth grades I was the guy everyone bullied. At first, I'd complain to the school and they'd discipline the offenders. However, the punishments handed down were laughable and I was bullied (often beaten) more for telling. Eventually, the school stopped trying to deal with the situation and it got to the point that the bullies felt safe assaulting me in front of school officials.

There were three particularly bad incidents.

The first was one time when I fought back and was suspended for a day.

The second was one time the whole class was waiting for a bus and one student shoved me into the street. The teacher said that due to the fact that I managed to get out of the street in the 2-4 seconds before the car reached where I'd been pushed, there was nothing wrong (even used the saying "All's well that ends well").

The third, and worst, was a fellow student making death threats, which the staff pretended not to hear, and when I escaped, he chased me and caught me then tried to strangle me. The only reason he stopped, was the security guard from a nearby school who had to load his gun before the other student stopped.

I changed schools, but the memory of that horrifying experience has stayed with me to this day (11 years later).

---

Outrageous examples. Sad to learn that even in Israel, you're not allowed to defend yourself. I had hoped that if anyone understood the need for defense.... -rc

Posted by Robert in Missouri on May 28, 2012:

@Mati: It makes me sick hearing about incidents like that. It wouldn't surprise me if the guy who tried to strangle you didn't get punished, but what surprised me is that the guard had an unloaded gun.

Posted by Mati, Israel on May 29, 2012:

@Robert - The guards at schools here have a magazine in the gun, but no chambered round (except in high risk areas). The student in question was never punished, though he was one of the main students bullying me, which is probably a large part of the cause for the final incident.

@Randy - First of all, there is no shortage of Israelis who feel Israel should have no right to defend itself. Second of all, The Powers That Be (namely the principal and his "secret police", one of the teachers) decided that defending myself was lifting the rug they swept my problem under. The suspension I got was a more severe punishment than anything assigned to the bullies.

One more thing I forgot to mention in the first post, is that at some point I started getting into trouble at the school, and was given a choice between seeing a psychologist and getting expelled (mid-year). They then proceeded to talk to the psychologist about things that were supposed to be confidential. This resulted in me moving to a school where I was empowered to change myself from the person I was, damaged by the physical bullying by the students and betrayal of confidence by the psychologist and principal, into a person who is stronger for having survived all that, and hopefully more compassionate for it.

---

I am glad you got to a much better environment. -rc

Posted by Julie, Manchester UK on May 29, 2012:

I am also finding it hard to find the words to say how appalled I am at what happened, not just at what the boys did, which is bad enough, but at the adults who seem to care more about image than the life of the boys in their care. For me there are actually 4 victims in this story, the obvious one is the boy who was so viciously attacked, but also the boys who did the attack. The 3 boys who did this horrendous crime should be arrested and punished for what they did, but let’s remember that they are young men just starting out on life and now they could (should) get a police record and a prison sentence, which will affect them for the rest of their lives. Their parents, teachers and the wider community should have been teaching and guiding them on how to behave in society, by allowing them to get away with being bullies (I am assuming that this was not the first act of bullying they have done) they have allowed this escalate into an horrendous attack. I know it could be argued that the boys were old enough to make their own decisions, but the society they have grown up in seems to have made them think that the act was acceptable and that they could get away with it. The first reaction of teachers and the community is reinforcing this belief and giving the same message to other youngsters in that community, I find that very sad.

I hope that these 3 boys are arrested and charged, but more than that I hope that the teachers and officials that wanted to ignore what happened are also arrested, charged and lose their job. To me the failure of the teachers and parents to react appropriately to earlier incidents has allowed the boys to make the wrong choices in life and that should be a crime in itself. How many more lives are going to be wrecked just to save image? How many more kids will end up in prison because no one told them to stop before it was too late?

Posted by Mike from Dallas on May 29, 2012:

I remember a similar story last year and found myself severely disappointed in the results of it. As the school district did NOT fire the principal for interfering with a rape investigation of one of his students (simply re-assigned him!), but that in the end, he was only charged with a misdemeanor with a maximum POSSIBLE penalty of 180 days incarceration, I have little faith that anything more will result from this investigation.

Randy, you call yourself a cynical optimist, but I predict that the end result of the Norwood story will be a wrist slap for the school administration, perhaps mildly more than a wrist slap for the student offenders, and a widely considered belief that THEY suffered from a miscarriage of justice rather than the victim.

Yes, human and social evolution does move forward, but at such an excruciatingly slow and extraordinarily painful pace that I have to wonder if it can be maintained. I don't subscribe to vigilante justice but, dammit, I can't help entertaining the notion in my head.

---

Just to clarify, that's frustrated optimist, and this story is a great example of that. I do need to update that blog page you linked about the previous such story I covered, but the bottom line was that state's laws were weak on the subject. The story, then, is a wake-up call to the legislature that they need to address it. It remains to be seen if they have waken up.

The mandatory reporting law in Colorado is fairly weak too: failure to report is a Class 3 misdemeanor, which is generally subject to a fine of (brace for it!) $50-750 and up to 6 months in jail. The max on both would be a nice start; I'd also like to see them lose their jobs (since they've proven they cannot be trusted to protect the children in their care), and the ability to get a similar one. -rc

Posted by Jenna, Michigan on May 29, 2012:

This sort of thing is the reason, to this day, I've never learned to be good at confrontation. I was bullied all through my school life (verbal and physical, including an attempted stoning) and I just had to take it.

My mother had always told me I'd be in trouble if I defended myself because school policies made defending oneself a punishable offense, so even if there was just verbal abuse, I couldn't even dare counter it for fear the bully would escalate to violence and I'd have to play ragdoll while being pummeled (and then later I learned that even if I DIDN'T defend myself, I could still be punished for, apparently, the crime of being beat up).

I learned very early in life that life and fairness are not on the same team.

Posted by Robert in Missouri on May 29, 2012:

@Mati: Your school sounds a lot like the junior high and high school I went to as a rugger, but mine were here in Missouri. Glad to see you got out of that hellhole. May the principal, counselor, and those three bullies burn in hell for what they did to you.

@Julie: You think a lot like I do. The administrators and staffers should not just lose their jobs but be incarcerated for at least 20 years and forced to do hard labor the entire time. The kids deserve nothing less than incarceration for at least the same amount of time.

Mike and Randy: Incidents where children are bullied and abused and the affairs are swept under the rug deserve harsh punishment with the administrators and staffers responsible for their misguided efforts being blacklisted and forced to do hard labor in prison after being tried and found guilty.

Posted by Robert in Missouri on May 29, 2012:

@Jenna: Your mother sounded a lot like mine -- and was just as wrongheaded. I found out the hard way that her advice was totally worthless and I ended up having to take matters into my own hands during my time in junior high school when dealing with non-students who decided to attend classes. That same strategy in high school eventually got me sent to a psychiatrist who was a complete scumbag. It took intercession by the school's counselors to get the problem reduced. The psychiatrist I saw during high school later lost his license to practice medicine when it was found out he was molesting his female patients; I never trusted him when I saw him.

Posted by Angie, Florida on June 1, 2012:

I have to wonder if it would have been handled the same if these boys had done the same thing to a 13-yr old girl? Or if an adult had done this to the child? What makes these people think that sexual abuse of ANY sort is acceptable? If adults knew about it and failed to report it, they are just as guilty as the criminals themselves and should be punished accordingly.

Posted by marjolein, netherlands on June 2, 2012:

@john, Arkansas: thank you for your insightful and brave story. If any one would encounter a victim (and stats are in favor of several of us outraged ones on this page will know one in our family, work or social circle), how can we help?

Posted by Bruce, Irvine on June 4, 2012:

Thanks for all your anti-ZT crusading over the years. Yet, here is the "exception that proves the rule:" these kids should have all been immediately expelled [no, NOT the victim, duh!] and the school board members who tried to cover it up been immediately fired; it's clear to me at least they can't be trusted in their respective positions.

It all reminds of the old joke about how in Texas, there's _3_ plea options when charged with murder:

#1: "Not Guilty, your Honor."
#2: "Guilty, your Honor"
&
#3: "Your Honor, he needed killin'..."

Those school officials are lucky they live in Colorado, I think... ;)

Posted by John, Arkansas on June 5, 2012:

@marjolein, netherlands: I don't think I can speak for all victims. The ones I have met over the course of my life who have shared similar experiences to mine are as diverse as a group can get. The things that were done to them are just as diverse. Believe it or not, the things described here are quite tame compared to things I have seen or heard. The strength and resiliency of some of these individuals surprises me, encourages me and have enabled me to become a survivor and not a victim.

Now, back to your request of what you should do if you encounter a victim? Treat them like a survivor.

Support them, but do not enable them to remain a victim. Seek professional help and *encourage* them to do the same. You will note I did not say force. Forcing this would only reinforce their lack of control and lead to a longer road out. Indeed, I think you should encourage them to report and assist in the prosecution of the individuals responsible, but NOT force them. Be the shoulder they can cry on. Be the person they can scream at without repercussion, if you have the strength to withstand this. Be the one that asks for nothing, and gives them what they need.

Be understanding. Understand that this experience will color many things in their life. Understand, but don't enable. Don't excuse them from their responsibilities, not entirely. This will only feed their loss of normalcy. If they say that doing something would make them uncomfortable, understand. Don't push. Don't avoid the activity if it's something you cherish and let them know, should they ever change their mind, they will always be welcome, on their terms, in their time. For some things, that time may never come. For others, it may be days, weeks, years or decades. When it does come, welcome them, not chastise them for not having come sooner. And understand if it may take some failed attempts. It may take some showing up in the parking lot, and just watching today, in order to be able to be there the next time. And understand when they need help, professional help, and continue to *encourage* them to get it. Assist them in knocking down the barriers to that help, be it money, shame, or whatever.

Be truthful. Even when it's not something they necessarily want to hear at this moment. Let them know when they step out of the line of acceptable behavior. Not chastise, unless it is really egregious. Just inform. Don't even indulge in the white lies. And above all, don't make promises you cannot keep. They have already had enough liars and false promises in their lives. Encourage them to improve, offer to help if you can. But don't condition your love on their ignoring their past. And when you see them in trouble that you can't help them with, *encourage* them to seek professional help.

Set an example. Don't use violence. Don't encourage the same. Show them that there are still humans among us. And they are welcome to join. Be human, share your feelings without going to that dark place of hate that is so easy to dig to but so hard to dig out of. Let them see how true humans treat one another. They have already met the monsters. If they start seeing the monster in themselves, *strongly encourage* them to get professional help, not just for their stake but the stake of others.

Protect them. Keep your mouth shut about things told you in confidence unless it is to a professional who has an obligation of privacy to them and there is a good reason to share it. Let them tell you that sweet neighbor reminds you of their monster without repercussions or jumping to conclusions. (Just because someone reminds them of their monster or makes them feel creepy doesn't necessarily mean they are involved or deserve the feelings bounding from these troubled hearts.) Don't force them into situations that make them feel vulnerable, unless you're willing to stand there with them shoulder to shoulder, hand in hand. Stand up when others accuse them of making a false allegation. Don't share the details of their incident with those who have no need to know the details, without their explicit permission. *Encourage* them to seek help and don't share the details of the help they are receiving at the gossip fence.

Don't treat them like the predator, if they have not done anything to deserve it. Don't hide the children when they come around. Don't fly off the handle when they are alone with your children unless something actually happens. Don't become a self-fulfilling prophet. If you force them to think you expect it of them, they will. If you find yourself fearing this, *seek help* of a professional and *encourage* them to join you without telling them you don't trust them simply because of what was done to them.

Don't enable them. These feelings and shattered trusts will lead them most likely to strike out and take destructive behaviors into them. When (hopefully if), it happens, don't enable these behaviors. Let them know their behavior is not acceptable. Be explicit. Be uncompromising on the things that matter. No, you can't show up at my house at 3 a.m. waking my children with drunken rantings. Yes, you can ask me advice at 1 a.m. when you are tempted to take that first drink. No, you can't gamble your paycheck at the casino and then expect me to help you make rent or put you up for a month. No, you can't get into bar fights and expect me to bail you out of jail. Yes, I can drive you to your counselor/psychologist office. And if they take that final step despite all of this, and become predators in their own right, let them go. Let them feel the full consequences of their act. Be disappointed. But, save your anguish for their victim(s). Only at this point would I consider it necessary for you to *Insist* they seek help if they ever want to be a part of your life again.

My sincere hope is that you never ever need this advice and that if the time ever comes, you avail yourself of the many growing resources for survivors and loved ones of survivors that are out there. I know if the resources that exist today existed 25 years ago, I would be a very different person with a very different life. But the last words I will share with you on this is those of a very wise beyond her years lady. Share them with anyone who has the unfortunate circumstances to experience this.

"I would want them to know that because an event like this has happened to them in their lives, that doesn't mean that they're any less than anybody else. It won't control them for the rest of their lives, they can overcome it." -Elizabeth Smart.

---

Wow, John: thanks for giving us this perspective that can only come from someone walking in your shoes. It's powerful, yet practical. I'm sure your words will help many people.

For those who don't know, Elizabeth Smart was abducted at knifepoint from her bedroom at age 14, which was witnessed by her 9-year-old sister, Mary, who pretended to be asleep. Smart was held captive as a sex slave by a man and his wife for nine months. Her captor, Brian David Mitchell, was a religious fundamentalist who figured it was his job to preach to others. He had tried to get women to be his second (etc.) wives, but failed, and thus tried to force Smart into that role. Upon Smart's rescue when someone recognized Mitchell from "America's Most Wanted" (based an a description provided by Mary), Mitchell and his wife were both sentenced to 15 years in prison. Smart has moved on with her life: she got married earlier this year. -rc

Posted by Allan Australia. on July 13, 2012:

While the actions are not defensible, the attitude that lead to this did not evolve in a vacuum. The kids no doubt know if dad is going to be annoyed or amused by this sort of behaviour. The kids are often a less than perfect reflection of their area. Says as much about the adults as the children. It goes without saying the offenders are from the pillars of the comminity end of town, other wise they would have been sorted out really quickly. On a rather cynical closing note. Has anyone accused the perpetrators of being whiney liberals or communists?

---

Not that I'm aware of, and I'd find that a surprising accusation. -rc

Posted by Ed, North Bennington VT on July 14, 2012:

I wouldn't be surprised if the perpetrators had never been chastised for anything, ever. Being subject to "behavioral correction" teaches limits and degrees of behavior. If a child is encouraged as being perfect and ideal then no decision is ever wrong, misguided, vicious or selfish.

If one knows, intellectually, that an action is "wrong" but there has never been any personally negative results when engaging in "wrong" behavior does "wrong" really mean anything?

There has to be opportunity to experiment, making small mistakes while growing up and being subject to correction that shapes "acceptable" behavior within the culture/society. Two six year olds in a fist fight learn that getting punched hurts, hitting someone hurts your fist, a black eye lasts a while; all without severe damage. There are fewer opportunities for these lessons and an aura of political correctness that denies the need for these early inter-personal social peer lessons.

Those types of lessons resulted in early teens accepting some level of adult responsibility and realizing they are expected to fit into society. Current practices defer adulthood to mid-twenties.

Posted by David, South Bend, IN on October 28, 2012:

Have there been any updates to this story?

---

Thanks for asking. I've been checking now and then, but haven't seen any -- until John in Arkansas alerted me. It has been added above. -rc

Posted by Bill in Fort Worth, Texas on October 29, 2012:

I don't have anything to say that hasn't already been said here, but I do want to add my own name in support of your outrage. I, too, am outraged and frustrated by public officials such as school board members and school employees (among others) who fail to protect those in their responsibility. We are indeed all US, and we all need to remember it and to behave accordingly.

---

And now that it's officially swept under the rug (see update, above), it's all the more outrageous and frustrating. -rc

Posted by Jay, MD on October 29, 2012:

Several months ago, I said the predators should have been labeled for life as sexual predators.

But after reading the updates, the responsible school system adults who "condoned" this action by their silence and acceptance after the facts were disclosed should be prosecuted as accessories after the fact AND have their names placed on the sexual predators list resulting in losing their ability to work with and around children!

This might be a case where zero tolerance for not reporting is not only an acceptable policy but a desired one!

Posted by Stefani, Iowa on October 29, 2012:

Ok....I got mad and stopped reading comments after too many of the "I am glad my kids are out of school"....hooray for you your kids are safe so should you just sit back and be glad??? HELL NO!!! We all have a responsibility to speak up if we see wrongdoing...for the safety of everyone's kids....so your kids made it through safe and sound...you still need to make sure the authorities know that this is NOT acceptable....hold them accountable if they don't address it properly....replace them as many times as you need to so that EVERY child can be safe at school.

---

Certainly we need to stop this. But the other posters aren't saying "Mine are safe, to hell with everyone else's kids." They're saying they feel powerless: they don't know what to DO about this. Legislators thought they knew what to do: put in strong laws that made it clear that school officials and others who work with kids have an absolute duty to report such crimes so that quick action can be taken. Yet that hasn't worked any too well. So now I know what to do: start sending school officials who fail in that duty to prison. Do it again and again and again until all professionals get it through their pointy heads that their professional duty is real. To do anything else is to condone this happening again and again and again to our kids. -rc

Posted by John, Arkansas on October 29, 2012:

I am sorry to say, this is not the first nor will it by a long shot be the last sweeping under the rug of failure to report. Just this year I count off the top of my head some dozen instances of this on the national scene, and probably a dozen times that many in local publications. Even the grievous ones get very little coverage, much less prosecution.

It seems that the prosecutors' playbook on non-reporters is a universal one. Investigate the abuse offense, file token charges to get the non-reporters attention, and wait for the media to go away then either let the charges die or plea to a no-jail time and a fine. I have watched for nearly 15 years and have yet to see anyone spend more than booking time and perhaps a couple days or hours while awaiting bail in jail for failing to report. In most cases, not even that, they get the equivalent of a ticket. I have seen judges routinely hand out stiffer sentences for littering and speeding than for failure to report.

Much about this needs serious reform. What I would like to see is a registry of non-reporters. They should be just like the offenders they protect and unable to find a job working with children, much less positions of authority over those that do. In addition, I think they should be criminally and civilly liable for any and all actions of a predator after they receive the report until they make their own report. IE, they would be criminally liable as accomplices for every act of molestation perpetrated by anyone reported to them as a predator/molester/abuser from the time they received the report until they made their report that fulfilled the requirements of their state's mandatory reporters law. Not really applicable to this case, as I doubt these boys have abused anyone in the short time it took for the report to be formally made. But all this would be fruitless if the prosecutors just let the charges expire or don't prosecute at all.

I don't know what happened here with the prosecution, if they decided the boys were not involved in the actual penetration of this child and are using their testimony to get the more guilty of the three, or of the two boys have the more influential/rich/powerful parents and the other is being thrown to the wolves. Or, perhaps they are the poorer ones and cut a deal because their parents can't afford to fight it in court and the other is going to get the most powerful defense money can buy. Perhaps we will never know, it's all being swept away, as if it never happened.

Except for one young boy, who will remember the worst day of his life forever. He will not forget. He will remember the powerlessness of his screams. He will remember the impotence of his parents to get him justice. He will remember the town who turned their fury on him and not his abusers. He will remember the authority figures he trusted turning their backs. No, *he* will not soon forget. He has learned a lesson that will shape him in ways he may never understand, much less be able to articulate.

And too, his abusers, they have learned a lesson too. They too, will remember this day. If we are lucky they will not feel they have gotten away with it and will change and grow. But, more likely three young and fit predators will soon roost in the town of those who so quickly turned upon their wronged son. And except for the innocent who will be preyed on with the guilty, I would think it poetic justice.

I mourn. I mourn not for the boy, for I still have hope he will eventually overcome this as I did. I mourn for our souls that we would let it happen, again and again.

Posted by Tracy/Redmond Or. on October 29, 2012:

This kind of thing is why I wont have children, period. I can't justify bringing a child into this world. If our kids are not safe in school or school functions, they are not safe anywhere. What the article doesn't say is whether or not any of the kids involved were the principal/coaches kids. It says that he has boys on the team, so is this all because it was his own kids? And what becomes of these kids who get away with this sort of thing? They go on to become admired members of society? It sounds like that may be what happens here. Scary as it may be they are breeding the devil in that town.

Posted by Ken, New York on October 29, 2012:

Perhaps the school officials decided they didn't need to report it to the police, and decided that it wasn't a case of "legitimate rape"?

Posted by Robert, Southampton, England on October 29, 2012:

Turning a blind eye by officialdom. Here in the UK a recently deceased TV and "Celebrity" called Jimmy Savile has been identified as a child molester, rapist, pedophile. THe BBC (the main TV and Radio Broadcaster in the UK) was warned about this guy in the 1970's but as he did "such good charity works" and no evidence was to hand they ignored the rumours. The result: it is expected that some 300-400 young girls and boys were abused by this piece of detritus. BE WARNED: ignore sex crimes at your peril -- one report may only be the tip of the iceberg.

Posted by Cheryl, Rochester, NY on October 29, 2012:

Looks like it's time for state-level law enforcement to step in, since local LE isn't doing its job by arresting school officials for failure to report the rape. It's too bad the state can't take control of the case against the rapists and charge them with sexual assault rather than whatever pansy misdemeanor charge the locals are allowing them to get off with.

I noticed the comment about how the victim should be made to receive counseling, and your reply that he shouldn't be forced to do anything. I agree. He should know that family and friends totally understand if he wants to go and it's not weakness to not be able to handle the mental and emotional trauma on your own, but it should ultimately be up to him when/if he wants to go. I was sexually assaulted in February of 2010 and it was three months before I went to see a counselor, and I ended up going once. One thing his parents absolutely should do is transfer him to another school (if they haven't already), since Norwood refuses to do the obvious thing and punish the offenders.

Posted by Mike from Dallas on October 29, 2012:

Don't misinterpret what I'm saying, because I don't support it even as a wishful thought. But would anyone be surprised to see another Columbine event as a result of this act of "justice"?

---

Sadly, not at all. -rc

Posted by Jean in Oregon on October 29, 2012:

Can't tell sodomy from high-jinks, doesn't know the difference between "code of conducts" and codes of conduct, but he's the school superintendent. Wow!

---

Well, it is an (awfully!) small town. That may excuse the latter, but not the former. -rc

Posted by Tom, Colorado Springs on October 29, 2012:

Wow. We've been thinking about moving out of Colorado Springs to a small(er) town, so thanks for reporting this. I was hoping that a smaller town would have a different atmosphere, but this isn't what I was looking for....

Close scrutiny of the area school districts will be a "must" since we have two children in school.

Thanks for continuing to report on these issues.

Posted by John, Arkansas on October 29, 2012:

First, a few responses to some of the comments.

Posted by Robert, Southampton, England on October 29, 2012: BE WARNED: ignore sex crimes at your peril -- one report may only be the tip of the iceberg.

No. One report most always is one of two things: a false report or the tip of a very big iceberg. In any case a school is just not equipped to investigate it. They should reflexively call in those who *are* professional investigators. It is ****so**** frustrating to me how many schools, churches, community service organizations and the like can be headed by "professionals" with doctorates, educated men and women who don't *get* this. Instead they attempt to address the situation on their own and generally end up at most pushing the predator to another pasture if not just shutting him down for a short while instead of ending his predations in a permanent fashion. And they even pat themselves on the back proudly for "handing a difficult situation with tact, diplomacy or even humanely". When a child is being harmed, FUCK TACT AND DIPLOMACY UP THE ASS. The HUMANE thing to do is CALL THE GOD DAMN POLICE! FUCK!

Posted by Mike from Dallas on October 29, 2012: Don't misinterpret what I'm saying, because I don't support it even as a wishful thought. But would anyone be surprised to see another Columbine event as a result of this act of "justice"?

Every time I see any mass shooting I wonder. Because I can remember a very real time over two decades in the past I contemplated that very thing, almost daily. Fortunately I never acted on these thoughts, but instead was lucky to have found some very substantial help and strong support group.

Posted by Tom, Colorado Springs on October 29, 2012: Close scrutiny of the area school districts will be a "must" since we have two children in school.

Whether you move to a small or large district, in my experience, the risks are pretty much the same. Large districts generally respond better to reporting but only marginally so. I would say checking on your children and those entrusted with their care should be a continuing "must". (Not attempting to imply you would do otherwise.) And look more than just at your school, but at the district and the districts your school interacts with. (Sports, Academic Societies, etc.) I have seen a few predators who never bothered anyone from their own school or district, but preyed instead on those with lesser contact and thus not likely to know their name.

Now with those comments, I want to say a little something. Any of you here who have read my other posts know, I was abused as a youth. You hear of scandal after scandal of this taking place: Penn State, Catholic Church, Boy Scouts, BBC, Michael Jackson, etc. What I am going to say may surprise you. One of my molesters went to his grave lauded as a pillar of the community. My own father gave his eulogy and was pissed I refused to go until he later learned why. The second was sentenced to the equivalent of a life term much like Sandusky. Most other survivors I have known and met, their molester's fate was the former and not the latter. I would venture to guess 70% to 80% of molesters go to their grave never prosecuted or otherwise brought to account for their actions.

The reason for this is very simple. No one wants to deal with it. I see it here with those wanting to walk and cool off from just reading about this instance of a child being hurt by his peers. It's messy and emotionally draining. I get it. I know. It shatters your world. But, look, you are an adult. Don't ignore it. As draining as it is to watch for this and worry about it, think how draining it is for a child. How conflicted they must be. "It feels wrong, but Coach/Scoutmaster/Reverend/Mr. 'Good Guy' says its natural, there must be something wrong with me and I don't want my parents to think I am any more of a failure so I won't tell them." And that is how it begins.

It might not be your kid, and the signs might not be obvious. But they are there. Follow up with things that don't seem right. Volunteer suddenly to help with events with any organization where there is a single adult in charge of many kids. Better yet, show up unannounced and bring a friend or a neutral party. Watch for changes in the flow and the way the children and the adult interact once they know you are there. Follow your gut, and if you sense something is wrong, get together with the other parents of kids involved and resolve to have one of you there at all times. The innocent will welcome the support and assistance. The guilty well, quite frankly we don't give a damn how they feel do we?

Be especially mindful of children of single parents or other vulnerable children. Volunteer to take their turns with helping or shuttle their child with yours instead of letting a lone adult do so. Very often vulnerable children are used as gateways to less vulnerable ones. "Well Mr. 'Good Guy' does it with Mike, and he is OK with it. I must be the wrong one." Or, "Mike's OK with it so I won't get him in trouble by telling. I just won't be around Mr. 'Good Guy' anymore." Be suspicious of all lone adult interactions with children. Be vigilant. Be unpredictable. Trust no one implicitly. Show up when you know a single adult is alone with a child, especially a vulnerable one. And if you see something. SOUND THE DAMN ALARM! Don't slink away. Grab a flashlight and peer in.

It will be messy. It will be draining. It will shatter your life for months and probably years. It may destroy your career. It will ruin friendships. Hell, the predator could even resort to violence at the thought of exposure and kill you. Which is all the more reason to involve as many people as you can as soon as possible. But, would you rather live with the knowledge you let a monster prey on children or die trying to save a child? I hope I know the answer to that, but time and time again I have found out otherwise.

Even I have failed. I failed 25 years ago when I waited to report what was done to me until some 2 years after. I failed just this year. I found out in July that a fellow survivor had become a predator in his own right. I had been worried about him but I had not made the time check on him since early January. Even I with my experience, I missed it. I ignored my gut and a child was hurt. I have to live with that. Nothing is too little to look deeper into. All it will cost you is your time, and perhaps some gasoline. Look out for one another. Be involved. Be willing to be wrong. The children are worth it. And, they have no one else.

Posted by Walter, N Conway, NH on October 30, 2012:

I believe that this is not just a *small town* thing. When you look at the attitudes even some senators or candidates with their views on rape, i.e. Akin, Murdoch have, and how they *legitimize* these acts; or how monsters like Sandusky are supported and worshiped even when the truth comes out, there is an underlying attitude, an *old boys* attitude, that needs to be corrected. These people, from the Norwood school board all the way up to the Sen. Akins, need to be informed, illuminated and VOTED OUT.

Posted by Carol, New Jersey on November 3, 2012:

What is this? Penn State west? The president and a couple of other formerly highly raked school officials were charged with covering up Sandusky's crime, and failure to protect minors...paraphrasing here. The LEAST of the punishments earned by these Norwood school officials is to be fired, stripped of professional licensure, loss of pensions, and named in national sexual abuser data bank for tacitly condoning the actions of the student rapists.

Posted by Joe (Janesville, MN) on January 12, 2013:

Although the circumstance are not exactly the same, didn't we just go through this with Penn State? Yes the perpetrator did go to prison, but others were also charged and the head coach and several other administrators lost their jobs. I believe sanctions should also be leveled against this school's sports programs for a least a year.

The administrators in this case should also be held criminally liable and lose their jobs. I am not one that is in favor of lawsuits, especially when so many frivolous ones are filed. But a lawsuit in this case, against the school system and the perpetrators, would definitely not be frivolous.

Posted by Ernest, Junee, Australia on January 14, 2013:

I won't be offended if you decide NOT to post this comment. But I felt I needed to point out that it's exactly this sort of behaviour by students and school officials that results in students going off the deep end and attacking people at the school at random. This attack and its after effects makes it clear there is a very bad culture in that school, and I wonder how long before it makes the news for more serious events when one of the picked on decides to strike back in some way. Then those responsible for this will shake their heads an wonder how it came about. Well, we know, as we can see the reason right here in this matter.

I hope nothing worse happens at Norwood, but I can easily see why it would.

---

I don't reject comments for being right! The sad part is, the snap could occur much later, and at a totally different place, so indeed the "How did this happen!?" hand-wringing is honest. THIS is how it happens, even if the connection isn't clear. -rc

Posted by Steven, Jerusalem, Israel on January 15, 2013:

I think "Us vs Them needs to stop. We are all us" t-shirts with an appropriate collage graphic depicting unacceptable scenarios (people standing menacingly over one person, for example) would make an important statement and would be a good item for sale.

---

I kind of like the "dammit" addition, too. :-) -rc

Posted by Chris, East Northport on January 15, 2013:

It occurs to me that the law enforcement folks, who correctly investigated and pressed charges, nevertheless failed in their additional responsibility to charge the school officials who did not act. That would send the correct messages: we expect you to protect our children; you must face the music for failing to do so. So I'm pleased that charges were brought but disappointed that some people were not charged who should have been.

Posted by Bob Amsterdam, Ny on January 15, 2013:

If it was my child and the school officials weren't prosecuted, I'd sue them in civil court. But then, maybe things don't work that way in small towns where the victim's father is employed by the school officials.

Posted by Peter - Phoenix, AZ on January 15, 2013:

Has anyone considered contacting the FBI or even the state attorney general into investigating the "non-charge" and cover up related to the "not reporting".

Posted by Kim, Oklahoma on January 15, 2013:

Could you enter as a third party advocate for the child on the matter of prosecution of the school officials? I believe some states declare that any adult may advocate for the welfare of any child specifically against schools.

Posted by Ed, UpState NY on January 16, 2013:

Sadly things are no better in NY. I once had a student drop a bag of pot (about a quart size) in my classroom. I brought him to the principal's office to await the police. The principal let him roam the halls until Albany, NY police got there. He had sold all the pot and had $4,000 in cash on him. The cop said he couldn't do anything. My evaluation that year was horrible. Oddly the teachers nominated me to be the lead teacher at the same time. I left public education after that and returned to EMS full time shortly after that. BTW, NY has mandatory laws for reporting suspected child abuse that apply to all school officials.

Posted by Mike from Dallas on January 16, 2013:

I'd like to think that, on the whole, we have a legal system that serves us fairly well. No, scratch that; I HAVE to think that. Otherwise, the only option is vigilante justice, and we all know how reliable THAT is. Still, even a good system makes mistakes on occasion. But mistakes can be corrected. It's even more frightening when mistakes are made, and those mistakes are compounded, then compounded yet again. And left that way. Who will protect us from the Protectors? Ernest of Australia may be more prescient than he realizes when a 13 year old finally decides at 28 years old that the system failed him.

Posted by Robert in Missouri on January 16, 2013:

@Ed in Upstate NY: That principal sounds several steps beyond what I had to deal with when I was a kid. I had to deal with a bully who used to love stealing my books out of my locker and an assistant principal who refused to deal with the problem until he was confronted with it by my dad. He was also a Police Explorer and was considered to be a "good Christian" who was also one of the nastiest anti-Semitic punks I ever dealt with. His logic behind the abuse? I refused to go to his church and get baptized.

Posted by Jeffrey, Nevada on January 18, 2013:

In my opinion, the officials who tried to cover it up should be tried as accessories after the fact. What happened was a sex crime, and no amount of whitewashing conceals that.

I do wonder what would have happened if the victim was a female student and the foreign object had been used either anally or vaginally. Would there be any question it was a form of sexual assault that demands school officials involve the authorities?

What we had here was three junior sociopaths who were on the verge of learning they could get away with it and suffer no real consequences. Sadly, what we do have here is a case of authorities mandated to report abuse or assault learning they can turn a blind eye without consequences. It's chilling.

Posted by jerry, Portsmouth Va. on January 18, 2013:

Most jurisdictions have a law on their books requiring public officials to enforce the law. Your District Attorney can be compelled to prosecute the school officials.

i had several court ordered sessions with a school principal who was found guilty of not reporting an allegation made against a school bus driver, choosing instead to investigate the matter himself. The allegation proved to be false, yet he was charged for not reporting it.

Do the right thing Randy.

---

I'm no more a resident of the county than you are. -rc

Posted by Bruce Pittsfield MA on January 19, 2013:

Maybe three adults should take the school officials out back one at a time and show them how it was for the 13 year old. They would only have to pay a fine and do some community service. The officials just might rethink how they handle future situations. Laws are great but they must be enforced.

Posted by Anne, Michigan on January 19, 2013:

The parents of the attacking students need to be slapped upside the head to get their attention and then ask them: what if it was your kid who was the victim? What justice would you think is appropriate?

All this type of parent thinks about is "my kid is a good kid, one 'little' mistake shouldn't ruin his/her life." They don't think about why their kid did it, what they are screwed up by/about, how many others they tormented/attacked/abused and got away with it. There is a high correlation between abusing/killing animals at a younger age and progressing to sociopath indications as a teen/adult. What animals disappeared without a trace (or were found dead/maimed) around each of their neighborhoods when they were younger I wonder.

Randy, thank you for your follow up on this. It still enrages me that the "officials" were never brought to task for their blatant disregard for the victim, only to keep the "peace". I'm not a sue happy person (I think there are too many ridiculous suits filed), but in this case, I hope the family filed suit against the school board and school officials -- they will need the money to get their child the help he needs.

Posted by Beamer, Toronto Canada on January 19, 2013:

I can't help wonder if there isn't some sort of Federal law that the perps can be charged under. It shouldn't be double jeopardy as there are charges they were not charged with (the ones that were dropped or minimized. At the Very least those kids should be on the sex offender list(s). That they are considered "heroes" in their own school is at best stunning. The parents of the victim should sue and have their son go to the best school money can buy. This would Not be a "Stella" suit at all.

Posted by Ian. Stockport, England. on January 20, 2013:

As far as I can see, there seems to be a general consensus among right-thinking people on this matter and the sheer number of comments shows the disgust felt, not just about the nastiness of the crime against the little boy, but about the evil reaction of some locals toward him and his family for complaining, and the school 'authorities' [note lack of capitalization!] in their absurd reactions to the victim, and their attempts to hide the truth from emerging.

What nobody seems to have touched on, is that, in a small town, did the police know of this crime, and take no action before a formal complaint was laid...and if so, is any action to be taken against them?

Posted by Jay in Santa Barbara on January 21, 2013:

It's obvious that the school administrators who broke the law by failing to report this don't think that being sodomized against one's will is a big deal.

Therefore, they shouldn't mind a little prison time. Naturally, their fellow inmates should be made aware of the nature of their crime.

Posted by Jay, Gambrills, MD on January 21, 2013:

In response to Ian of Stockport:

After 8 months, I would have thought that news organizations which follow blogs, such as Randys', would have caused an investigation by local, county or state police. When something of this vicious nature takes place, the self-preservation gene takes over. While the school authorities hid it, the police would not want to be perceived as covering up a criminal event.

Last year, I said give the authorities another position in the school system; having rethought it, I would give them the money they put into the retirement system and fire them for cause!

Posted by Jean, Glen Burnie MD on January 21, 2013:

I think it's likely that the three assailants told a different story than the victim and backed each other's stories up. They probably told a story that didn't involve rape and their friends and family chose to believe them, perhaps thinking it was like the false rape accusation made against the Duke Lacrosse team in 2006. I would wonder if those friends and family who stuck up for them in the beginning have changed their tune.

---

One hopes! -rc

Posted by Michael, Texas on June 20, 2013:

Did you know the father of the victim was forced to leave his position as principal and seek a position in a far away town for half of his previous salary?

None of the administrators were held accountable for failing to report (and thereby breaking the law)?

I know that there were some fires in the Colorado area. I can only hope and pray that some of these Norwood folks went down in flames.

---

I haven't heard that, but it is no surprise that the family fled the town. I never even tried to look into anyone's identity, and this is the first I've heard that it was the principal's son (which therefore, I can't confirm). The surprise to me is that there's someplace where a principal (assuming he stayed in the same field) is paid less than in tiny Norwood, Colorado, let alone half. -rc

Posted by Gerry, Boise, ID on July 30, 2013:

I wonder if anyone has noticed a resemblance between the way the community reacted to this boy daring to report being raped, and the way that rape victims in the Middle East are often convicted of adultery?

Maybe the tribal and clan moral systems in some of our own small towns are no different from those in places like Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Posted by gregory, California on August 1, 2013:

Gerry makes a good point. This blaming of the victim probably is similar, and in both cases it represents structural oppression and exploitation. Shameful behavior anywhere, but particularly egregious in this so-called modern nation.

Post a Comment

Read this before posting a comment! Comments are of course the opinion of the poster. All comments must be approved by the site owner before they appear. Only interesting, pertinent comments that have to do with the entry will be approved. Read the existing comments before posting your own to ensure you're not saying something that's already been covered. You must include an e-mail address or your comment will be automatically discarded; e-mail addresses are not published.


Subscribe to Entry Comments without Commenting

Put your e-mail address in the box to subscribe to notifications of comments made on this specific entry. Confirmation required, unsubscribe individually anytime without affecting your regular newsletter subscription.

Blog Updates