During a Tuesday news conference, Bibb County school Superintendent Romain Dallemand admitted to significant “gaps” in the school system’s response to an alleged rape at Northeast High School on Jan. 19.
Seven teenagers at Northeast have been implicated in the incident, in which a 16-year-old special-needs student was allegedly raped and sodomized for about an hour in one of the school’s boys restrooms.
The school system didn’t release an initial incident report until after 6:30 p.m. Tuesday. That report was filed Friday, but school officials have spent much of the ensuing time poring over it and redacting information in it. A Telegraph attorney contacted Bibb chief legal counsel Randy Howard on Thursday, two days after The Telegraph requested the report. Before that, a school official told a Telegraph reporter that the report would not be released because of an ongoing investigation involving juveniles.
The redacted report contained little new information. It listed the ages of the males involved in the incident ranging from 14 years old to 18.
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A Macon police report from the afternoon of Jan. 20 notes only that officers responded to the alleged victim’s address in connection to a possible sexual assault. Macon police officials haven’t released any supplemental information.
Bibb County campus police took charge of the investigation initially, but on Tuesday, Dallemand said the investigation has been turned over to the Macon Police Department.
The superintendent said Bibb schools interim Police Chief Stephanie Prater made the initial decision to not bring Macon police into the investigation. Attempts to reach Macon Police Chief Mike Burns about the case were unsuccessful.
Dallemand told reporters he wasn’t aware that Macon police weren’t part of the investigation until Monday.
That was just one of the many gaps that Dallemand and board of education officials acknowledged Tuesday.
David Gowan, the director of risk management for the school system, said after the news conference that he wasn’t brought into the loop on what was happening with the investigation until Monday. Before that, Gowan said he only had been getting updates through the media. Gowan’s department is responsible for the safety of Bibb County students, ranging from violent crimes to storm responses.
“I was not involved until (Monday),” he said. “Obviously, there was a gap. Not everything was handled as well as it could’ve been.”
The school system still hasn’t sent a formal letter to the Northeast parents and students addressing the episode. Alisha Allen-Carter, assistant to the superintendent, said she isn’t aware of when such a letter might be sent. She said she also isn’t aware of how many Northeast parents have tried to contact the school system or the school itself about the incident.
During Tuesday’s news conference, Dallemand made a brief statement expressing concern for the alleged victim. But Allen-Carter told members of the media beforehand that they would be limited to only two questions per news organization following Dallemand’s remarks.
Dallemand said he and other central office administrators have been working to investigate the gaps in the system’s response.
Dallemand said that an additional campus police officer has been assigned to Northeast, as well as psychologists, counselors and social workers to help any students and staff members who need support.
“Since the alleged assault, the district has reviewed the policies and procedures at Northeast High School, and across the district, that impact student safety,” he said. “We have also taken the necessary steps to address the use of protocol and communication by school district personnel.”
Dallemand said the students involved in the case should have been in class, but determining who was responsible for supervising them is still under investigation.
The superintendent also said the system has handled personnel issues with those involved in the case, but would not discuss the specifics of what has happened. He also said a regular teacher, and not a substitute, was overseeing the victim’s class.
Local attorney F. Bradford Wilson of Adams, Hemingway & Wilson, who attended Tuesday’s news conference, is representing the alleged victim’s family in the matter. Wilson declined to comment on the case, except to say that he hasn’t seen a campus police report about the incident yet, and that many of Dallemand’s comments “surprised” him.
Wilson declined to answer when asked if the family would be taking any civil action.
School board member Ella Carter, who served as Northeast’s principal for many years, also declined to comment about the situation. Carter said she was unable to attend the news conference and still “needs to know more about it” before she can comment.
Information from Telegraph archives was used in this report. Telegraph staff writer Andrea Castillo contributed to this report. To contact writer Phillip Ramati, call 744-4334.