School counters rumors

February 26, 2007 11:00 pm

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.

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

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.

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

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

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.

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

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.

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

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

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

"There certainly was no rape."

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 — myspace.com — that the boys asked to play a "prank" on a girl with a female teacher's permission.

"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," Cooper wrote.

But according to Moorehouse, that portrayal is "so misguided — it's so incorrect.

"It's so based on rumor and hearsay," 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.

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

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

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