Alleged high school rape not reported for five months

By: Lynnsey Gardner Email
By: Lynnsey Gardner Email

March 9, 2007

BURKE CTY, Ga.---The Burke County school board has some tough questions to answer after the sheriff's office says school officials failed to report an alleged rape on school grounds.

The alleged rape happened in September, and five months passed before deputies were told. Investigators say that's against the law.

Georgia law says any crime on school property must be reported to law enforcement.

Deputies want someone held accountable.

"It's their job to educate, not investigate," said Sgt. Dedrick Smith. Sgt. Smith says Burke County school officials made a serious mistake after a 16-year-old girl was allegedly raped in a high school bathroom.

"We received the call from the rape crisis representative," Sgt. Smith explained, but that call didn't come in until February 23...five months later. On top of that, her parents reported it to school officials in November, but at no point did those officials notify law enforcement..

"These people involved are mandated reporters to report such instances to law enforcement," Sgt. Smith said. "That's also by state law and by protocol."

In a statement released to News 12, the Burke County school board says it requires school administrators and teachers alike to call the authorities when a crime happens. In this instance the school board says no rape was reported. But Sgt. Smith says that's not true.

"In talking with (rape crisis representative) Dr. Hickman, he did retrieve a file and went back and told me he was informed of the incident on November 27th according to the paperwork he had at hand, and that he informed the superintendent the following day on November 28th."

Investigators are still trying to figure out exactly what happened inside the boys' bathroom after school between the girl and the then 18-year-old, but investigators say they believe one thing: a crime did occur.

The suspect in this case is still in school.

News 12 talked with Burke County school board chair Johnny Jenkins. He says the board was not notified until last week after the story had been made public. He added the board is looking into the matter and says if someone did not follow protocol, they will be held accountable.

The sheriff's office and the GBI are expected to turn their case over to the district attorney next week. A grand jury could indict the suspect, and some school leaders could face misdemeanor charges for not reporting the case.

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