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StarBulletin.com

Report sex assaults


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POSTED: Thursday, September 10, 2009

Kamehameha Schools was derelict in leaving the decision to contact police about an alleged rape of a student up to the parents. School officials should have been aware of their legal requirement to report the incident to police, who in turn should have informed all schools long ago through its outreach programs about the legal obligation of both public and private schools.

As it turned out, the parents of a 12-year-old student boarder at the school reported to police that she had been sexually assaulted by two 13-year-old male students over the Aug. 29 weekend, and police arrested the boys on charges of sexual assault and burglary. State law requires schools to report incidents “;when the child has been the victim of sexual contact or conduct.”;

In a letter this week to the “;Kamehameha-Kapalama Ohana,”; Headmaster Michael Chun said the school's policy is to first protect the children involved, then gather information about the incident, notify the parents and “;assist them with decisions regarding any further actions they may wish to take, including notifying the police.”; However, he added that the school “;will notify the proper authorities of serious offenses”; in the future.

The Hawaii law requiring a school to immediately report such incidents to police is common around the country. In Colorado Springs, Colo., The Classical Academy, a charter elementary school, was criticized for neglecting to report to police a 10-year-old girl's allegation in October 2005 that she was sexually assaulted.

A report to the Colorado Department of Education this year found that there was no evidence that school officials had conducted an in-house investigation, as they claimed. A school district administrator reported it to police six months after the incident; the police investigation was inconclusive.

Surveys cited by the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics indicate that half of the rape victims nationally are juveniles, and the bureau estimated that in 1992 nationwide about 17,000 girls under age 12 were raped.

Reluctance to report incidents to police may be more prevalent amid the ivory towers of private schools. But public or private, schools are not to make the determination of probable cause, which Kamehameha Schools seems now to understand.

Carmael Kamealoha Stagner of Kaneohe told the Star-Bulletin that she had been sexually harassed, pinched and grabbed as a 12-year-old at Kamehameha 24 years ago. After she reported one incident to the school's administration, she said, the same boys sexually assaulted her after she came out of a shower.

When Stagner learned that the school did not report the recent August incident, “;What I thought was, 'How many other incidents happened that the school didn't report?'”; she said.