INDIANAPOLIS - The Indiana Supreme Court has upheld the conviction of a former Muncie Central High School principal who failed to report the rape of a student in a timely manner.
In November 2010, a 16-year-old female student told then-Principal Christopher Smith and school staff that a classmate had raped her in a school bathroom.
Rather than reporting the rape immediately, police said that Smith and other staff made the victim sit in the principal's office for hours and write a report about the incident while the suspect was allowed to leave the school.
The suspect, 17-year-old Steven B. Moore, eventually pleaded guilty to criminal confinement and sexual battery and was sentenced to four years in prison.
Smith was charged with a misdemeanor for failing to report the case in a timely manner . His lawyer argued that Smith didn't know that an incident involving two 16-year-old students constituted child abuse. Indiana state law requires school employees, among others, to immediately report any possible instances of child abuse.
A Delaware County judge found Smith guilty in March 2012 and sentenced him to a suspended jail term of 120 days and 100 hours of community service.
In January 2013, that conviction was overturned by the Indiana Court of Appeals .
On Friday, the Indiana Supreme Court reversed the appeals court's decision and reinstated Smith's conviction.
"The General Assembly has expressly charged particular individuals—like Smith—with a significant responsibility: to serve as the first responders to incidents of child abuse and neglect, and to act swiftly to ensure the child is protected from further harm," the court wrote in its majority opinion.
"It is apparent that Christopher Smith failed in his duty to help protect one of his trusted charges," the court continued. "Whether this failure was out of ignorance, a desire to protect the reputation of the perpetrator, or perhaps a wish to keep his school from receiving negative publicity on his watch is not clear. But none of those possible reasons are excuses under the Indiana Code’s statutory provisions compelling him to report instances of child abuse or neglect or face criminal liability."