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Middle school is site for media frenzy

By Juliet Leyba Daily Planet Staff
Saturday November 18, 2000

When Charles Heimler, father of two, dropped his kids off at Martin Luther King Middle School Friday at 8 a.m. he never expected to see what he described as “a total media feeding frenzy.” 

He, of course, knew of the recent rape of a 12-year-old girl at Willard Middle School and said he knew that the same girl had been subsequently transferred to MLK. He even knew, via a school letter sent out on November 15, that the girl had been allegedly sexually assaulted again, this time at MLK. Even so, he and many other parents were caught off guard Friday morning as news of the recent incident led the media to descend on their once quiet neighborhood school. 

“There were television crews and reporters sticking microphones in kids faces and shouting questions. They were on school property and . . . it was chaotic. Vans had satellite hook-ups and dishes up on poles. It was a mess.” 

As a result, Heimler decided to take the day off work and give school security a hand herding the media off school property and getting the students into school safely. 

“We positioned ourselves at all the points of entry and just tried to get the kids in as quick as possible,” he said. 

At noon on Friday, with students protected behind school walls, Heimler was still standing guard and said he planned on spending the day there. 

“I feel that the media has to show some discretion,” Heimler said. “My kids know about the situation and they know how to protect themselves. But, they’re kids and it’s hard for them to resist the cameras and crews. It’s very attractive and distracting.” 

MLK Principal Neil Smith said he and his staff quickly  

preprepared a written statement to be read in every classroom Friday morning explaining why the camera crews and news reporters were there. 


The written explanation said: 

“The news reporters are following up on stories that appeared in local newspapers. The stories said that the police have charged an MLK student with the rape of another student at King. In this case, rape is statutory rape, which means being sexual with someone under the age of 18.  

The incident in the news referred to in Mr. Smith’s letter yesterday: “Last week, two students were engaged in sexual activity in the bushes during lunch time. The staff at king is working with the families of these students and the police to handle this situation appropriately. 

The reporters are here to get more information from students and staff at King. We are forbidding the reporters from being on the school grounds or to question students or staff during the school day. After school is out, no student or staff should feel obligated to talk to the reporters.  

The law says we must protect the rights of any person who is directly involved in the incident. Rape is serious charge, and everyone charged with a crime has a right to privacy.”  


According to the letter sent home with MLK students on November 15, the girl was allegedly involved in “sexual activity” and stated that the faculty and school district were working together to “respond to the emotional effects of the disturbing incidents that occurred.” 

The students will see and discuss Kaiser Permanente’s live theater program, “Nightmare on Puberty Street,” a show that helps enforce students decision making skills, abstinence, resisting peer pressure and parent-teen communication.  

“I sure don’t want to have to talk to my kids about this,” Heimler said. But, if any one should, I guess that would be me.”