Investigation delayed in school sex assault

Incident involving first-graders wasn't reported immediately

June 01, 2000|By Peter Hermann | Peter Hermann,SUN STAFF

The principal of a Baltimore elementary school is being investigated by police and school officials for failing to report a sexual assault of a first-grader by another pupil during a class on Tuesday.

Authorities are trying to determine what happened at Brehms Lane Elementary School in Northeast Baltimore, a process complicated by reporting delays that have angered police and school officials.

"Established procedures were not followed," said Vanessa Pyatt, a school systemspokeswoman.

The 8-year-old suspect is being recommended for suspension, school officials said.

Detectives say their work has been hampered. The parents of the 7-year-old victim have declined to cooperate with school police and have told officials that they are hiring a lawyer.

School officials said the teacher, who was not identified, witnessed at least part of the attack, called the victim's parents and brought the suspect to the principal's office about 2 p.m., shortly after the incident occurred.

What happened next is unclear. School procedures require that such incidents be immediately reported to the victim's parents, the state Department of Social Services, the school police and the system's area superintendent.

"That is the building administrator's responsibility," said Pyatt, referring to the principal, Jean Creek.

City police detectives were notified Tuesday evening by doctors at University of Maryland Medical Center, who were treating the child and had found evidence of an assault, city police said. School police did not find out about the incident until yesterday.

State law requires that anyone who has legal control over children, whether as a teacher, principal or day care worker, call a law enforcement agency with any allegation of child abuse.

"They should notify us right away," said Lt. Michael Tabor, who runs the city Police Department's sex offense unit.

Investigators said the delays and improper contacts of people involved in the case could be construed as obstruction of justice and are being looked into.

Five years ago, the city school system suspended a 10-year-old girl who had been raped by a classmate in a stairwell, prompting outrage from women's groups and Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke, who complained of "punitive action taken against the victim."

School Police Chief Leonard Hamm said yesterday that a personnel dispute between the teacher and Creek contributed to the breakdown in following correct procedure.

"This would be a lot easier if you didn't have two people arguing with each other and doing what they are paid to do," said Hamm. Creek would not comment yesterday.

Pyatt said the teacher, who is on provisional status, will work until the end of the school year but will not be brought back next year.

City police said they are trying to determine whether a crime occurred. They said they want to talk to everyone involved and the state's attorney's office before making an assessment.

They said detectives were not able to interview the principal, the teacher and others at Brehms Lane until yesterday.

Police can bring juvenile charges against children as young as 7.

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