JFK site of fourth alleged assault

Published 12:00 am Saturday, May 8, 2004

Suffolk News-Herald

Letters were sent home with John F. Kennedy Middle School students Friday alerting parents to an ongoing police investigation into an alleged sexual assault that occurred earlier this week.

The alleged incident, which happened in a school bathroom around noon Wednesday, involves a 13-year-old suspect and an 11-year-old victim. Both are male.


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Police are continuing to question witnesses and the two students involved in the incident, said Lt. Debbie George, spokeswoman for the Suffolk Police Department.

The incident wasn’t reported to authorities until Thursday.

Bethanne Bradshaw, school division spokeswoman, said the delay was caused by a new assistant principal who was attempting to gather information before reporting it.

Virtually everyone connected with the school system has been notified that any type of sexual assault or weapons violation needs to be reported immediately, she said.

&uot;Student safety is a top priority in Suffolk Public Schools, and we want to keep families informed of situations as soon as we are able,&uot; Principal Vivian P. Covington wrote in the letter. &uot;I also urged parents to discuss with their children the importance of telling a teacher or administrator when they know of any situation that threatens the safety of another student or staff member at school.&uot;

In her letter, Covington also said she &uot;strongly suggests&uot; that parents review with their children the Student Handbook sections on bullying and sexual harassment.

&uot;Because this allegation is a current topic, it would be an opportunity to discuss these sensitive issues with your child,&uot; she said.

In the student handbook, &uot;bullying&uot; is defined as a form of aggression in which one or more students physically, sexually and/or psychologically harass another student over a period of time. These incidents are to be reported immediately.

Sexual harassment can be physical, verbal or non-verbal, according to the school handbook.

Last Wednesday’s incident is the fourth assault/sexual misconduct allegation that have take place in Suffolk schools in recent weeks.

Recently, A JFK student falsely accused a gym teacher of sexual misconduct. Two weeks ago, the teacher was cleared of all suspicion two weeks ago following a meeting between Commonwealth’s Attorney C. Phillips Ferguson, the teacher, the 13-year-old female accuser and her mother. The girl admitted that she’d lied to authorities and apologized to the teacher.

On April 30, 58-year old Sophronia C. Cherry, a Nansemond River High School teacher from Elizabeth City, N.C., was arrested after a female student told police that that Cherry put her hands around her throat and slammed her into a desk. The alleged incident happened while the student was involved in a verbal altercation with another student.

In March, police charged a 14-year-old King’s Fork Middle School student with the malicious wounding of Lisa Rath, a civics and history teacher. The student assaulted Rath during a fire drill.

The girl was placed under house arrest in her mother’s home and that hearing is still pending.