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Victim, 12, advised to stay home from school

By John Geluardi Daily Planet Staff
Saturday November 18, 2000

Berkeley police and school officials have confirmed they are investigating a second allegation of rape involving the same 12-year-old girl who was allegedly raped by nine boys at and around a junior high school. 

Now, police are advising the school district to not allow the girl back into the school system. “If she is going to be protected there only two things you can do, home school or have somebody with her constantly anytime she leaves home,” said Berkeley police spokesperson Lt. Russell Lopes. 

Lopes said after the first rape, the victim was transferred from Willard Junior High School to Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School where she was raped again on Nov. 9, two days after her arrival. 

“She was walking around the track area when the suspect approached her and she agreed to go with him to a secluded area where she was raped,” Lopes said. He said the secluded area is well known to students who want to avoid supervision. 

The victim reported the crime immediately to school officials and the 13-year-old suspect was taken into police custody and then released to his parents. He has also been indefinitely suspended. 

Three of the suspects in the first incident have been charged with 34 total counts — most of which are felonies. The suspects are still in custody. Four others were released to their parents and two are still being sought by police. All the suspects who attended Willard were suspended. 

At a press conference yesterday, Berkeley Unified School District Superintendent Jack McLaughlin said that despite a second incident at a different school, police and school officials have assured him there is no a public safety issue.  

He said the two incidents are isolated and other than an alleged incident in 1990 there has never been a rape in any of Berkeley’s schools.  

“Other students are not at risk,” McLaughlin said. “If they were we would be taking different steps.” 

School and police official said they are not investigating any similar cases.  

McLaughlin said student safety is a top priority and school employees are being questioned about the two incidents to see if there’s anything the school system can do to better protect all students.  

McLaughlin refused to talk specifically about the incidents.  

He did say the victim is not developmentally disabled as was earlier reported. “She does well at some classes and poorly at others just like most kids in junior high,” McLaughlin said. “She is qualified to attend Willard and King.” 

Lopes said there is some question about whether the victim is developmentally or learning disabled but he described her as “exceptionally vulnerable.”  

“There’s some type of mental capacity that allows her to be duped into these situations,” Lopes said. “She makes the same mistakes over and over again.” 

Lopes said it was unknown if the King suspect knows the suspects of the prior incident. However, he did say that most King students knew who the girl was and what had occurred on the Willard campus. 

After the initial incident at Willard on Oct. 25, it took school officials two weeks to notify parents of the alleged assault by a note sent home with students. Parents were outraged at the length of time it took and that the note was vague. 

McLaughlin said the important thing is parents were notified and he doesn’t anticipate making any changes to how schools communicate such incidents to parents.