The Opposite of Zero Tolerance
From True's 28 November 2010 issue:
Weekly Weird News
We Know What's Good For You (No. 7,639 In a Long Series)
With "zero tolerance" policies, schools are quick to call in police for even minor alleged infractions of their rules. Central High School in Muncie, Ind., went the other way: when a student came to the office to report she had been dragged into a school restroom and raped, school officials refused to call in the police -- not even the police detective at the school working security. Instead, the 16-year-old girl was told to write a report on the crime, and then sat for 2-1/2 hours waiting for a Youth Opportunity Center employee to come get her. The YOC worker wasn't informed of the nature of the call until she arrived; she took the girl to the hospital, and doctors there immediately called police. "There has to be some basis for which to notify the police," said school superintendent Eric King. "They are investigating to determine if there was an incident," hence the written report. A police investigator said the four-hour delay in getting detectives involved left "too big a chance of losing critical evidence." A prosecutor said he was "extremely uncomfortable" with the school trying to take on a criminal investigation by itself, and that the school had an "absolute duty under the law" to bring in the police. (RC/Muncie Star Press) ...They'll consider that request. Maybe.
There are some updates on the story. Police did find evidence of a crime, and (six days later) arrested the boy, who is being charged as an adult. The school told the boy that the girl had "changed her story" and he could go home! He did -- and took a shower and washed his clothes. "We lost any evidence that he had on him at that time," said Muncie Police Detective George Hopper. Of course, the boy "changed his story" himself when he talked with police, first denying everything, then later saying the sex was consensual. But he also admitted he had "crossed the line" with the girl, who resisted him. Police say when they talked to the girl, she didn't change her story at all. But yeah: no doubt she was embarrassed to have school officials interrogate her, and likely wasn't clear when answering the questions asked by self-appointed (and completely untrained, in a criminal investigation sense) school "investigators".
The police say flatly that school officials "have interfered with and delayed the investigation that is required by state law." Because of the delay in reporting the crime, other students used the restroom, trampling over any evidence there, too.
The Youth Opportunity Center is a "troubled children's center". The shocked caseworker took the girl to the hospital as soon as she discovered what was going on.
"I don't know that I can speak to the delay" in bringing in the police, said the school superintendent. "We are cooperating."
These are the people we're paying to educate (and, in loco parentis, protect) our kids. If this is an example of the kind of "professional" school administrators we have, we have too many administrators. I'm guessing we could hire at least two teachers for what it costs for this kind of administrator. I do know there are good administrators out there too, but I'm wondering if this is a major part of the educational problem in this country: too many chiefs, not enough "Indians" (teachers) who do the actual educational tasks.
I'm betting you have something to say about this story too, so comments are open below.
December 2010 Update
Lots of the commenters are wondering why criminal charges haven't been pursued against school officials. This morning, the Star Press is reporting that's in progress.
A grand jury was empaneled in early December to look into the case, and specifically "told they might be asked to determine whether state law was violated in the response by [school] officials", rather than look into the alleged rape itself.
The incident occurred November 9, so it took nearly a month to impanel a Grand Jury to look into what was immediately obvious to me and my readers.
February 2011 Update
A Delaware County deputy prosecutor has issued his first comments after looking into the situation at Central High School. "And I didn't necessarily like what I saw," said Eric Hoffman, who is still trying to determine whether school officials should be indicted on criminal charges for their failure to report the rape on campus.
Hoffman reports discipline at the school is "lacking or completely non-existent." For example, he has seen "out-of-control and violent fights and students actually standing up and telling teachers to f--- off. What has significantly compounded this chaos is the unwritten policy or at least the desire by the administration to handle these matters in-house without the intervention and help from police officers," even those who are stationed at the school. He notes "arrests for delinquent or criminal activity occurring on campus are frowned upon, discouraged or prohibited by various administrators [in the entire district], particularly at Central High School."
School officials have even stopped officers from conducting alcohol tests on students they suspect are intoxicated on campus, which has helped create a "snowballing effect of completely out-of-control students and an oftentimes chaotic environment," Hoffman said.
The response by district officials is as lame as you might expect. "I don't know what he's responding to, so I can't comment," said Supt. Eric King, who also refused to say whether any administrator at the high school has faced internal discipline over failing to report the rape.
King's Assistant Supt., Tim Heller, seems a bit more on the ball. He has proposed new "security policies" to the school board, Hoffman says, which "makes it crystal clear that school administrators do not have the authority to direct a school security officer to make an arrest or, more importantly, to not make an arrest." That's a direct response to something that happened at Central High, when principal Chris Smith allegedly "interfered with an officer who tried to make an arrest and told the officer that he will decide who is arrested on school grounds," Hoffman said. "That is not the law and that will no longer be tolerated by law enforcement or the prosecutor's office." It's about time!
Hoffman said he will decide in March whether to present evidence to the Grand Jury about the school officials interference with the rape investigation. "The ultimate question will be whether there is sufficient evidence that school administrators violated Indiana criminal law, and if so, who specifically violated the law," he said.
Source: Muncie Star Press -- and kudos to them for staying on this story.
March 2011 Update
Central High Principal Christopher Smith, who was previously "reassigned" within the school district (note: not fired!), has finally been charged with a crime regarding this case.
"Any person who has reason to know that a child may be the victim of child abuse or neglect is required to immediately make a report to either the Department of Child Services or a local law enforcement agency," said the Delaware County Prosecutor's Office in announcing the criminal charge. "As principal, Mr. Smith was in charge of the building and the duty to comply with the law… was ultimately his, and only his, responsibility."
The charge: failure to immediately report child abuse or neglect, a misdemeanor. The most severe penalty available under the law: 180 days in the county jail.
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