SAFER SCHOOLS NEWS-VOL. 109
It was 7 am, January 25, 2007. The sky was gray but the sun was not yet up. A 10 year-old girl stood alone in front of the closed Eastside Elementary School in Rogers, Arkansas waiting for a bus to take her on to her school another mile away. Suddenly a man’s hand was over her mouth so she could not scream. He dragged her away, stopping between the school gymnasium and a small shed. He told he to do exactly as he said or else he would hurt her bad. The man instructed her to pull down her pants then he sexually assaulted the little girl. He stopped when it sounded as if someone might be coming, but he told her not to tell anyone as he left the scene.
Why was a little girl standing alone outside a school that was not yet open?
We do not know. Over 95 emotionally charged entries on a local news paper’s bulletin board wanted to know. Many assumed the parents dropped her off and blamed them for the rape. At least one said that this was part of the school’s transportation plan and that the student had ridden another bus to the school and was waiting for a connecting ride, therefore, the school was to blame for the rape. For whatever reason a 10 year-old girl is left alone at any bus stop with no adults in the area, it is a bad plan. In today’s society it is simply not safe to trust that everything will be OK when a child is placed in a position where there is no one available to protect her. It would appear that using a closed school provided a false sense of security and more hiding places for a perpetrator to launch and consummate an attack.
Check your transportation plans to see if students are being placed in vulnerable positions. If you are not sure, ask someone or an agency from outside your community to look at your plan for possible danger points (School Site Safety Assessment). Using an outside source is crucial as those living inside the community take many things for granted and rely on familiarity rather a criminal mind set to determine safety issues. Keys To Safer Schools has provided this service to many schools across the US. Most are surprised at the vulnerabilities found by using outsiders.
A suspect was arrested later that day. Why was he there?
The man arrested is listed on the Arkansas Crime Information Center’s website as a registered sex offender. Other information available about the suspect included:
- 1996 Misdemeanor conviction for indecent exposure
- 1997 Misdemeanor conviction for indecent exposure
- 1997 Pleaded guilty to residential burglary and first-degree sexual abuse. [sentenced to 20 years, 10 years were suspended, paroled in 2001.]
- 2002 Pleaded guilty to financial identity fraud. [5 year suspended sentence]
- 2005 Pleaded guilty to sexual indecency with a child. [4 years probation]
- He has 3 children, at least one of whom attends Eastside Elementary.
- He is being held in Benton County Jail on $500,000 bond.
When he was sent to prison in 97, it was his third conviction for a sexual offense. In other jurisdictions this would have been a third strike and he would never be free again. But in this case his sentence was cut in half then he only served 4 years and was paroled. He was on parole and was convicted for two more felonies. In other jurisdictions, either one would have caused his parole to be revoked and the full sentence imposed. Now he is arrested again for a horrible sexual offense while on parole, probation and a suspended sentence but he is in jail with only a $500K bond.
Why was this incident kept quiet?
According to parents in the Rogers area reported that they had not been notified of the attack as late as 4 days after the incident. Most found out about it when the police issued a news release on the Monday following the Thursday attack. Both police and school officials have cited privacy issues. However, parents feel less than secure when things happen around their children and they are not told. Similar incidents in other areas have resulted in the school and/or police posting information pages on websites to insure that parents are dealing with factual information and not local rumors. However, the silence generated by the privacy issue is also very common. See Sexual Assaults at Schools. The identification by the victim was only a partial identification. She told police he was thinner than the man they arrested. What if the suspect in jail is not the one and the predator is still roaming the streets looking for more victims? Do parents and the community deserve to know? If you had a child in a similar setting would you want to know?
How wide spread is this type of attack?
It is too common and too often. In a brief 10 day window, dozens of other incidents were discovered. They happened in every state an in other countries. They happened to elementary and high school students; teachers and staff members. They were committed by other students and trusted adults. They happened in public and private schools. Something is seriously wrong.
If you are concerned about the welfare of your children as a teacher, administrator or parent, contact Keys today to learn what can be done to provide a safe and secure learning environment at your school.
For more details or to engage an Expert Consultant call or email Keys today.
If your school needs help in establishing policy or implementing procedures for a Crisis/Emergency Response Plan and Team contact Keys To Safer Schools.com today for assistance from the Multi-disciplinary Team.