Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Student Sex Scandal Rocks Indiana School District

School officials in an Indiana school district are confirming that two sixth grade students had sex in an open classroom while the teacher was distracted and other students looked on:
Indianapolis - For months it's been a well-kept secret. But now Warren Township Schools confirm a disturbing case of sex in the classroom. The illicit activity has parents concerned and a district at a loss for words.

Shop class gives students a chance to learn outside of the book. But at Warren Township's Raymond Park Middle School, two students engaged in illicit acts in view of goggled eyes.

13 Investigates was tipped off by a disturbed resident who writes:

"...during school hours in a classroom with an experienced teacher present, two sixth graders completed the act of intercourse...at least ten students were witnesses. No disciplinary actions were taken against the teacher... All teachers were told to keep quiet."

Middle school students having sex in a busy classroom while a teacher is present? Warren Township Associate Superintendent Jeff Swensson confirmed it's true. It's been kept under wraps since November.

The principal at Raymond Park Middle School would not speak to us about the incident or parents concerns. The superintendent in charge of middle schools in the district also backed out of an on-camera interview and instead provided a three-sentence statement:

"Two students were involved in inappropriate conduct in a lab class last semester. We have investigated the matter and taken appropriate action. The school corporation considers the matter closed and will have no further comment."

Associate Superintendent Jeff Swensson told Eyewitness News off camera the teacher didn't know what was going on because another student acted as a "look-out." But once the teacher discovered the behavior, immediate action was taken. Swensson says the students involved were recommended for expulsion. But he did not say whether the board followed that recommendation.

Warren Township School Police were not aware of the incident and say no report was made even though the children were recommended for expulsion.

We sought comment from all seven Warren Township School Board Members about how this case was handled. No one was available to speak with us.
There have been a number of stories about students or school staffs around the country engaging in awful behavior lately, but what's happened in this Indiana school district could very well be the worst.

If the facts are as alleged, we hope that accountability extends up the chain of command and doesn't end with the classroom teacher

Update: (03/07/07) The school district continues to stonewall attempts to learn more about the details surrounding the incident:
Indianapolis - The Warren Township school district is gaining national attention after a 13 Investigates report confirmed young students engaging in sexual activity during class time.

School officials are refusing to comment publicly, prompting concern and outrage among township parents.

Two days after 13 Investigates uncovered hidden facts about two Raymond Park Middle School students engaging in sexual activity during shop class, Warren Township School administrators still aren't talking. The report is raising questions nationwide. Nearly a half million viewers heard about the incident from the Drudge Report online.

Parents in the district are outraged.

"It just upsets me because it sounds like they're trying to make excuses. It doesn't matter to me how long it was, you know, 30 seconds, 30 minutes; it's too long. I want to know where the teacher was and how this was able to happen," said Laura Pliquett, who has a nine-year-old possibly headed to Raymond Park.

Troy Weber has a fifth grader and he's also concerned. "How could it have been kept quiet for that long and still to us kind of being swept under the rug?" he questioned.

Associate School Superintendent Dr. Jeff Swennson confirmed the incident happened almost four months ago in an Industrial Arts lab with the teacher present. He told 13 Investigates another child acted as a "look-out," disputing an insider's claim that as many as ten children may have witnessed the act. More than two parents who called the district say they were told the incident only lasted 30 seconds.

"The 30 seconds, that's not even a consideration - it's the fact that something occurred," said Kevin McDowell, the attorney for the Indiana Department of Education. He says districts often consult him on serious legal matters, but says this is the first he's heard of the Raymond Park incident.

Schools are NOT required to report such incidents to the state. McDowell won't criticize Warren Township, but doesn't agree with the district's approach.

"I can't imagine any administrator worth her salt or his salt that wouldn't address a situation like this because it is a serious matter. I really can't answer for them. I'm sure they have their reasons why. You know, is that the way I would address it? Well, my first blush reaction is, you know, I would have handled it differently," he said.

Jackie Stevens says the issue was particularly bothersome because she has a sixth grade student that attends another Warren Township School. She wonders if there are any other secrets.

"I just want to be very confident that they're not witnessing and they're being protected - they're not witnessing things that are harmful to them emotionally, physically - whatever."

McDowell agrees parents have legitimate issues about classroom supervision - but has a different take concerning students who may have witnessed the activity:

"This doesn't pose any danger to the other students even if they did see it," he said.

When asked for claification, McDowell repeated his stance.

"All right, so they may have witnessed this. While this is an activity you certainly don't see in a school and it's something that would be certainly unusual, I don't feel - I don't know where it posed any immediate danger to those children who saw it," McDowell said.

Many of the parents we spoke with are considering whether to send their children to Raymond Park next year or to even remain in the district.

Warren Township School Board member Marlene Tisdale is the only school board member who returned our calls. She repeated the district's statement that two students were involved in inappropriate conduct and that the school corporation investigated and considers the matter closed.

Parents can voice their concerns at the upcoming school board meeting on March 21st. Coming up Thursday at 6:00 pm, we'll tell you why the State Department of Education's hands are also tied in this matter.
Stay tuned.
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