In different circumstances, it would have been a school principal’s moment to shine — addressing an important concern during a school-wide parent meeting, and receiving a standing ovation afterward.
Only this was one honor that Principal Paul DeFoe would probably have preferred to go without. Because the concern in question wasn’t a curriculum issue or a funding problem. It was the case of two third-grade boys at John Adams Elementary School in Riverside, Calif.
One of them had reported the other for a series of sexual assaults that allegedly occurred throughout the past year.
Unraveling a Year of Secrets
Not many facts of the case are known yet, since school officials are reluctant to talk about it. A spokeswoman for the Riverside Unified School District confirmed that one of the boys had accused the other of forcing him to perform sexual acts. The victim alleged that the assaults began when both were in second grade. He said that it happened mainly in school restrooms.
The assaults were not reported by the victim himself but instead by other students, who told a staff member. The staff member went straight to the principal, who contacted police as well as the boys’ families. The parents met with the principal that same day.
Three days later, with a Child Protective Services investigation underway, the principal presided over the school-wide parents’ meeting. They were told that the alleged attacker has been suspended and could be expelled, depending on what the investigation reveals. The victim of the alleged assaults has also been removed from the school.
At least one of the attacks is reported to have occurred in a classroom with teachers present. In light of this, two teachers are now on administrative leave.
The hardest part for investigators will be determining whether the assailant knew his actions were wrong. This is the linchpin for whether or not the child can be charged with a crime under California state law, and it is a central tenet of the America legal system.
Investigators and counselors will look into the child’s history to see whether he experienced sexual abuse in his own life or was exposed to inappropriate behavior that may have encouraged him to take advantage of another student.
‘Your Children Are Safe’
several expressed their confidence in the school’s handling of the situation. In particular, Principal DeFoe’s quick response to the situation helped parents who might otherwise hesitate to send their children back to school.While parents are understandably alarmed by the incident,
The night of the meeting, Principal DeFoe did his best to assure parents.
“I can tell you your children are safe,” he said.
But, he urged them, they must use the occasion to remind their children that they should always notify an adult if they feel afraid or uncomfortable about something that goes on at school.
Awareness and Vigilance
Like these parents in Riverside, we all want to watch out for our loved ones. We should be sure we know how to stay safe and what to do if ourselves or a loved one should fall into harm’s way.
If you or someone you know has been the victim of sexual assault, don’t keep it a secret. Regardless of whether police file charges, you make be able to assert your rights in civil court. Contact attorney Jessica Pride to seek help. Your call is always confidential.
picture source: PE.com