INDIANAPOLIS - A male student has been suspended after at least six elementary school girls reported being fondled and groped by a classmate in the Lawrence Township school district.
A letter was sent home to parents of fifth graders at the Crestview Elementary School off East 71st Street, but some parents told the Call 6 Investigators they were upset that the series of sexual episodes was termed a “game” in that letter.
The mother of an 11-year-old asked, “How can they say this is a game? I don’t know, next is it going to be another kind of game that it goes further?”
She asked, “Is a rape game next?”
Her fifth grade daughter reported that she was forced to the ground and then fondled as the boy climbed on top of her at school.
“My daughter says it’s not a game. I mean, I trust my daughter fully. She is the one that I believe. Period,” said the mother, who is not being identified by Call 6 Investigators to protect the identity of a possible sex crime victim.
She said, “He could have raped her. He literally could have raped her. Who’s to say that in a few more months, he’s not going to pull a kid in the bathroom and try raping them there?”
Several parents told the Call 6 Investigators they were informed of six different fifth grade female victims of the same sort of groping and fondling, but school district officials said their investigation found as many as eight people involved.
Some parents said they believed that the district allowed the boy to remain in school after learning of the abuse, allowing the boy to strike again with his latest victim on Tuesday.
A second parent of a 10-year-old victim told Call 6 Investigators, “I don’t think he should be in the same school with these kids, these six different girls he’s touched in a sexual manner.”
Her daughter was leaning forward for a computer keyboard when, that second mother said, “he just put his hand on her crotch, a handful of her crotch.”
Lawrence Township school spokeswoman Mary Louise Bewley defended the school manager’s handling of the matter.
“From our perspective, he did a great job in terms of immediately launching this investigation, talking to as many people as he could… and then that student was removed from the classroom,” she said. “The investigation requires chasing down and talking to students, teachers, so speed is relative.”
She also defended the wording in the district’s letter to parents.
The letter, in its entirety, reads as follows:
“Hello fifth-grade parents, this is Crestview Principal Kim Brown calling to tell you about an incident that has come to my attention this week.
“Yesterday, a female student shared with her teacher that she had been touched inappropriately by a classmate. My administrative staff and I began an investigation that has uncovered that a small group of students has created what they call a “game” that involves inappropriate touching. At this time, (two administrators) or I have spoken with the parents of these children about their actions. My understanding is the only children involved in this “game” have been identified. The investigation is continuing. Please know these students will face consequences, in some cases up to and including suspension.
“Parents, please know that the safety of your students is our number one priority. I ask you to work with us by talking to your student about the importance of sharing with an adult if he or she has been touched in a way that makes him or her feel uncomfortable.”
Bewley said the district was not downplaying what happened in the letter. She said the words of the girls who reported the fondling were repeated in the letter.
“Each of them has referred to it as the game. The children considered it a game. The district does not, the school does not. The children refer to it in that way,” she said.
She said the district learned about the touching on Tuesday and immediately contacted Child Protective Services caseworkers, who told the district they had no intention of following up on the complaint since it involved children touching other children.
One of the students who reported the touching on Tuesday mentioned another fondling case that had occurred on Monday, Bewley said, but district leaders heard about it the day after it happened.
Bewley said district investigators continued talking to more students and staff and contacted CPS caseworkers a second time on Wednesday.
Two parents had already notified police, so Bewley said caseworkers informed the district they would wait to see what the police investigation yields.
Bewley told Call 6 Investigators that one of the girls was fondled without having ever participated in a “game.” She said the district investigation determined that all of the other victims had indicated they were participating in the “game” that involved the sexual touching.
Both parents who spoke to Call 6 Investigators on camera today disputed that, saying neither of their daughters ever knew about any game.
“It could escalate further and further and, honestly, I want this little boy to get help, but I want him away from our kids,” said the first parent of the 11-year-old.
The district confirmed the boy was suspended, and Bewley said he would be kept away from the victims when he returns to school.
Some parents told Call 6 Investigators they would keep their girls out of school, or perhaps even transfer to other schools, if the boy is brought back to the school building.
Bewley said that expelling the boy forever would not help the boy.
“The school clearly is not going to allow inappropriate touching to happen,” she said.
She said the boy would be educated and counseled in a way that helps him in the long term, while protecting the victims.
“The school takes it very seriously,” she said.