MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) — The head of a school where a boy is accused of sexually assaulting five female classmates said Monday that it is reviewing its policies and will be offering students educational programming about healthy relationships.
Conner Tatro, 16, pleaded not guilty last month to seven counts of felony sexual assault. Officials have said he's being charged as an adult because of the severity of the crimes.
He's accused of sexually assaulting the girls, choking some and pinning others against walls and a tree, at various sites in and outside Thetford Academy. Tatro's lawyer told the Valley News that "there are some very, very serious allegations but that is all they are."
The girls Tatro is accused of sexually assaulting had all previously engaged in sexting with him at some point, the academy's dean of students, Siobhan Lopez, told police, and they felt he was using those messages to coerce sex from them. The girls told Lopez that Tatro had also physically assaulted them by either leaving bruises or choking them during casual and sexual encounters.
William Bugg, head of the day school serving students in grades seven to 12, called the allegations "deeply disturbing and incredible disheartening, as they do not reflect the values that we work so hard to instill in our students here at Thetford Academy."
The school is examining its policies and procedures, as it does at the start of every school year, he said.
"We will be providing opportunities throughout the year for our students to participate in educational programming related to what it means to have healthy and responsible relationships. We will also continue to ensure that our students have access to counseling support as needed," he said.
One 15-year-old girl said she was in the science building after school when he asked her to perform a sex act, authorities said. When she refused, he choked her, according to a police affidavit. She said she was afraid to continue to say no because he was bigger and stronger, and she was afraid of what he might do so she "went along with it," the affidavit said.
Another girl said he carried her into the woods and sexually assaulted her, police said.
Thousands of students have been sexually assaulted by other students in high schools, junior highs and even elementary schools across the country. A yearlong investigation by The Associated Press released in May uncovered roughly 17,000 official reports of sex assaults by students over a four-year period, from fall 2011 to spring 2015, based on state education records, supplemented by federal crime data.