School counters rumors


By Karen Wilkinson

Triplicate staff writer

Three weeks after two Crescent Elk Middle School boys allegedly attacked a girl on campus, school officials have scheduled a public meeting to extinguish the explosive rumors.

andquot;I will just explain and help put (parents') fears to rest,andquot; said Del Norte County School District Superintendent Jan Moorehouse. andquot;I want to be able to tell them what didn't happen, to sort of de-escalate the thing.andquot;

Crescent City Police were called to the in-town middle school at 12:30 p.m. Feb. 6 by Crescent Elk Principal Bill Hartwick.

Parents, many who learned of the news through their children, say the boys attempted to rape the girl after being allowed to view pornography on a school computer.

The case is still being investigated, Police Chief Doug Plack said, so details can't be released.

Hartwick sent a letter home to parents two days afterward, but it focused on minimizing gossip rather than giving specifics.

andquot;... Some very inappropriate adolescent behavior took place on campus this week,andquot; Hartwick wrote in the letter. andquot;Rest assured that disciplinary actions have been taken.

andquot;Thank you in advance for helping to diffuse the rumor mill.andquot;

But the apparent lid that's been sealed over the incident has fused a firestorm of he-said, she-saids, and parents concerned for their children's safety are demanding answers.

andquot;I don't agree with the school district hiding this they're basically covering it up, is what they're doing,andquot; said Phyllis Rickner, whose 13-year-old son attends the middle school. andquot;I want to make sure this does not happen again.andquot;

Jennifer Williams, whose 13-year-old daughter attends Crescent Elk, was told two boys ripped a girl's shirt and pants off in a classroom between lunch breaks, only to be interrupted by a teacher.

Williams was also told the boys were promptly expelled, but otherwise, hasn't heard what's being done to keep similar occurences from happening again.

andquot;They're keeping that kind of hush-hush,andquot; she said.

But for many legal reasons, they have to, Moorehouse said.

andquot;It's an ongoing investigation (and) they're not done with it yet,andquot; she said. andquot;(But) if it becomes a criminal case, there will be publicity about it.

andquot;There certainly was no rape.andquot;

David Cooper, a local parent, was told the boys viewed pornography in a teacher's classroom and afterward attempted to rape a girl in a restroom.

Cooper also wrote on the popular online social networking site that the boys asked to play a andquot;prankandquot; on a girl with a female teacher's permission.

andquot;When she gave them permission to proceed, they attacked the girl and began removing her clothes while yelling obscenities and groping her on her breasts, groin and buttocks,andquot; Cooper wrote.

But according to Moorehouse, that portrayal is andquot;so misguided it's so incorrect.

andquot;It's so based on rumor and hearsay,andquot; she said. But though Moorehouse said no teacher was involved, an adult middle school staff member has since resigned.

The misinformation train that seems to be speeding out-of-control is just what Hartwick is attempting to halt.

andquot;These rumors are very damaging to all involved, including our great school,andquot; he wrote in the letter. andquot;...Please share with your student, as we have, the damage they can cause to the victim.andquot;

But it's those mushrooming rumors and hearsay that Cooper is so concerned about, as he'd just like the truth to come out.

andquot;I just want to have the school say 'this happened and this is how we're dealing with it,'andquot; he said.

The Del Norte Triplicate
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