Oklahoma high school rocked by 3 rape allegations

AP News
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Posted: Nov 24, 2014 8:27 PM
Oklahoma high school rocked by 3 rape allegations

NORMAN, Okla. (AP) — Allegations by three girls at a central Oklahoma high school that they were raped by the same male student have led to a police investigation, and on Monday brought protests by students who say school officials have mishandled the case and subsequent bullying.

Hundreds of students, along with parents and supporters, filled the street in front of Norman High School to protest what they say was bullying of the girls by friends of the alleged assailant.

Cleveland County District Attorney Greg Mashburn said Monday that Norman police are investigating alleged sexual assaults of three teenage girls in separate incidents earlier this year. He said two reportedly happened off campus and the third happened at the school. Mashburn said he's also been made aware of a possible fourth victim who allegedly was assaulted by the same person about two years ago.

"We're waiting for police to finish their final investigation," Mashburn said. "We want to review everything ... and then make a decision on what charges to file."

No arrests have been made. Norman Police spokesman Capt. Tom Easley would only say the department is investigating the allegations.

One of the alleged assaults was videotaped, and when school administrators became aware of the video in September, they immediately suspended the alleged assailant for the remainder of the school year, said district spokeswoman Shelly Hickman.

"We acted very quickly and decisively to remove that student and to discipline that student," Hickman said. "That's the strongest punishment under Oklahoma law that you can give a student, and it was for the rest of the school year."

But when 16-year-old girl who appeared in the video returned to school after reporting the incident, she was subjected to bullying by a male friend of the suspect, said Elton Jenkins, the girl's attorney. The girl responded in one instance by swinging a backpack at the male student, and both were suspended for three days, Jenkins said.

Jenkins said the girls ranged in age from 14 to 16. The alleged assailant is an 18-year-old who was a senior at the school, Jenkins said.

Hickman said she believes all the actions taken by the district were in accordance with school policy and state law, and that, "We would never punish a victim for being a victim."

"I can't get into the disciplinary reports of individual students, but I can say that discipline has occurred" in bullying cases, Hickman said.

During Monday's protest, hundreds of students poured out of the school during the second period to join about 300 protesters already lining the sidewalk.

The protest, which initially was scheduled to go on for less than an hour, stretched into the late afternoon.

Danielle Brown, a 15-year-old sophomore who said she's friends with all three girls, said she helped organize Monday's protest.

"My friends were looking for support, and they weren't finding it," Brown said, adding that all three have left the school.

"I think this show of support today would give them a boost of confidence to come back," she said.

The Associated Press generally does not identify people who make allegations of sexual assault.

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