School officials refuse to comment on sex incident
March 7, 2007 06:45 PM EST
Sandra Chapman/13 Investigates
Indianapolis - The Warren Township school district is gaining national attention after a 13 Investigates report confirmed young students engaging in sexual activity during class time.
School officials are refusing to comment publicly, prompting concern and outrage among township parents.
Two days after 13 Investigates uncovered hidden facts about two Raymond Park Middle School students engaging in sexual activity during shop class, Warren Township School administrators still aren't talking. The report is raising questions nationwide. Nearly a half million viewers heard about the incident from the Drudge Report online.
Parents in the district are outraged.
"It just upsets me because it sounds like they're trying to make excuses. It doesn't matter to me how long it was, you know, 30 seconds, 30 minutes; it's too long. I want to know where the teacher was and how this was able to happen," said Laura Pliquett, who has a nine-year-old possibly headed to Raymond Park.
Troy Weber has a fifth grader and he's also concerned. "How could it have been kept quiet for that long and still to us kind of being swept under the rug?" he questioned.
Associate School Superintendent Dr. Jeff Swennson confirmed the incident happened almost four months ago in an Industrial Arts lab with the teacher present. He told 13 Investigates another child acted as a "look-out," disputing an insider's claim that as many as ten children may have witnessed the act. More than two parents who called the district say they were told the incident only lasted 30 seconds.
"The 30 seconds, that's not even a consideration - it's the fact that something occurred," said Kevin McDowell, the attorney for the Indiana Department of Education. He says districts often consult him on serious legal matters, but says this is the first he's heard of the Raymond Park incident.
Schools are NOT required to report such incidents to the state. McDowell won't criticize Warren Township, but doesn't agree with the district's approach.
"I can't imagine any administrator worth her salt or his salt that wouldn't address a situation like this because it is a serious matter. I really can't answer for them. I'm sure they have their reasons why. You know, is that the way I would address it? Well, my first blush reaction is, you know, I would have handled it differently," he said.
Jackie Stevens says the issue was particularly bothersome because she has a sixth grade student that attends another Warren Township School. She wonders if there are any other secrets.
"I just want to be very confident that they're not witnessing and they're being protected - they're not witnessing things that are harmful to them emotionally, physically - whatever."
McDowell agrees parents have legitimate issues about classroom supervision - but has a different take concerning students who may have witnessed the activity:
"This doesn't pose any danger to the other students even if they did see it," he said.
When asked for claification, McDowell repeated his stance.
"All right, so they may have witnessed this. While this is an activity you certainly don't see in a school and it's something that would be certainly unusual, I don't feel - I don't know where it posed any immediate danger to those children who saw it," McDowell said.
Many of the parents we spoke with are considering whether to send their children to Raymond Park next year or to even remain in the district.
Warren Township School Board member Marlene Tisdale is the only school board member who returned our calls. She repeated the district's statement that two students were involved in inappropriate conduct and that the school corporation investigated and considers the matter closed.
Parents can voice their concerns at the upcoming school board meeting on March 21st. Coming up Thursday at 6:00 pm, we'll tell you why the State Department of Education's hands are also tied in this matter.
Reviewing the RED,
No comment by school officials will always raise concerns. This happened 4 months ago and the school district did nothing. The teacher was in the classroom and saw nothing. Why was this not reported to the state? Because they were protecting someone, Who? We probably will never know now. A fifth grader, Troy Weber, wonders how they could keep this a secret for so long. Troy it is called executive session.
This is why we need open meetings, I can guarantee this would have come up in an open meeting. I am calling the the Warren Township BOE and asking them how many times they have been in executive session in the last 4 months. I will let you know.
What do you think?
I called the Warren Township BOE and talked to the superintendent's secretary. She said that they only go in to executive session when needed and not every month. They do have a great website and they post everything. So I looked at all of their executive sessions and of course they went into executive session 11 out 12 times. But they have held many special meetings in the last 4 months. I believe this school system has the same problem as ours, Administrators covering for the bad teachers. Well, why wouldn't they? They are FRIENDS. Once again the school board could have shown that they want to work with the parents and make them aware of what is going on in these schools. But, This school district does not have a sign that says if you don't have anything nice to say, say nothing at all. Here is what theirs says:
The Warren Township Board of Education is always open to and welcomes comments, questions and/or suggestions from any citizen of the School Corporation. Anyone may address the Board by submitting a yellow or green comment card to the Board Secretary prior to the beginning of the meeting. Yellow comment cards are for those items not on the agenda. Green comment cards are related to items on the agenda. Comments will be limited to five minutes. The Board may delay action or response pending review and recommendation by the Superintendent of Schools.
Notice you are not required to call ahead of time. If we don't have true open meetings this will happen, if it already hasn't, in our school. If these parents didn't know, how would we?
The board still has not responded to my request for the law that gives them the right to tell me what I can and can not say. You (the board members) do look at this site, I know.