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Ohio school officials accused of coverup in sexual assault of girl

By Associated Press
Published April 17, 2005

COLUMBUS, Ohio - The girl was led by the arm behind a stage curtain in the auditorium. There, witnesses said, her lip was bloodied and she was sexually assaulted by a group of boys, an attack videotaped by one student and watched by more than a dozen others who came running as word spread.

Within minutes, the developmentally disabled girl reported the alleged assault to a special-education teacher, who said the girl "looked dazed and confused and was crying."

But school officials didn't immediately notify police for fear of media attention, in violation of state law. When the girl's father arrived, he was asked not to call 911. He called police anyway.

Now administrators at Mifflin High School face the possibility of being charged along with students in the alleged March 9 assault at the school.

"Even if you are following the common sense measure, absolutely, none of this should have happened," said Gene Harris, district superintendent.

The district said it will fire principal Regina Crenshaw and has suspended three assistant principals. Police have not said who might face charges, but a city attorney said school officials could be prosecuted along with the alleged assailants.

Witness statements to school investigators paint a picture of a slipshod response to the incident, which came on the heels of other problems. Earlier in the day, administrators had to deal with an assault on a Somali student and a report that a student had a concealed weapon.

Just after noon, the girl said four boys grabbed her by the arm. Students said one assailant punched the girl in the face and she dropped to her knees. One of the boys told her, "If you scream, I'll have all my boys punch you."

She was forced to perform oral sex on at least two boys, according to school investigators.

A student who had a camera for a school project videotaped it, illuminated by light from a cell phone. Another witness said at least 15 people were in a room that looked into the auditorium because they had heard what was happening.

When some students went to look for an adult, the boys involved fled.

Police have not said how many boys may be charged, but plan to give their evidence to prosecutors early this week. Potential charges could include delinquency counts of rape and pandering obscenity, said spokeswoman Sherry Mercurio.

The boys, who have not been identified, are not expected to return to class this school year, district spokesman Andrew Marcelain said.

Whether school administrators will be charged is unclear. State law requires officials to immediately report cases of abuse to law enforcement, said City Attorney Richard C. Pfeiffer Jr.

However, he said officials would be charged only if someone filed a complaint. So far, no complaint has been filed.

An attorney for the girl's father would not say if he plans to file one.

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