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Father speaks out on son’s behalf

By Juliet Leyba Daily Planet Staff
Saturday November 18, 2000

A father of one of the boys who allegedly participated in the sexual abuse of a 12-year-old girl last month spoke out at a community forum held at Willard Middle School Thursday evening. 

The father, who asked that his name be withheld, took the microphone after several parents shouted out that the boys involved should be locked up and the key thrown away. 

“My son is 12-years-old, his life is on the line and due process must be followed,” he shouted back. 

The parent urged the crowd not to pass judgment until all the facts have been presented and said that his son “is not on vacation” as one parent in the crowd suggested. 

“My son has been suspended and out of school for nine days and may not be able to return to school. I assure you he is not on vacation,” he said. 

The father defended his child and explained to the audience that his boy was lured in by curiosity and stayed without doing anything about the incident because of peer pressure. The father also said his son had not been charged with any crime in connection with the incident. 

The father said the boy said that was across the street from the school at a computer store when he noticed a group of boys nearby and that he went to see what was happening. That is when he witnessed the girl in sex acts with some of the boys and saw one of the boys hit the girl. 

“He said ‘Daddy I was scared but I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t want the other boys to think I was a punk,’” he said. 

The father said that his son did not take part in any of the acts and that he was present for a short period of time. 

“My son has never had sex. He is not lying and I am here to tell you that he deserves a second chance,” he said. 

The fathers emotional speech was met with loud applause from the audience and many parents shook hands with him and offered him words of support as he made his way out of the crowded auditorium. 

Parent Mary Mitchell, whose seventh grade daughter attends Willard, said that the father’s speech came at just the right time. 

“I was really getting a sense that the crowd had taken on a lynch mob mentality and his speech brought us all back into reality,” she said. 

Mitchell also said she feels that kids that young deserve a second chance. 

“His speech really brought some big time reality to the situation and he’s right. We don’t have all the facts,” Mitchell said. 

Berkeley Mayor Shirley Dean, who was among 11 panelists present at the meeting, said that it took a lot of courage for the father to attend the meeting. 

“And he’s right we should reserve judgment until all the facts are in. Believe me, I was a shocked as everyone else by this but I’m reserving judgment until I figure out what happened,” she said. 

Alex Palau, former manager of student services and current principal of Berkeley Alternative High School said the boy is now under a temporary suspension pending expulsion. After 30 days the boy will appear with his parents and an attorney, if they wish, in front of a panel of four school administrators who will hear the facts of the case and determine whether expulsion is necessary. The decision will then be passed up to the school board of directors for final approval. 

“If the boy is expelled it is the districts responsibility to place the boy in another educational institution. That would be Rock La Fleche in Oakland – an alternative school for troubled youth,” Palau said. 

The Willard Middle School Community Forum shed light of several areas that need improvement as outlined by Principal Gail Hojo at the conclusion of Thursday’s forum.  


They include: 

• The school needs to provide more in depth sexual education. That should include human reproduction, STD’s and sexual abuse prevention. 

• The school needs to improve lighting around campus. 

• The school needs to teach sexual education in small groups to create a sense of safety. 

• The school needs to keep the shed locked or remove it from school premises. 

• There needs to be more volunteer training for staff and parents to help deal with crisis. 

• The school gates need to be kept locked. 

• Communication between the school and parents needs to be improved. Parents need to take a more active role in education, and can do so by attending parent, teacher association meetings.