Monday, October 20, 2008

CA: Rialto parent worried, angered by assault on daughter

Wesley G. Hughes, Staff Writer
Article Launched: 10/19/2008 11:25:58 PM PDT

RIALTO - An outraged mother whose special-needs daughter was sexually molested by classmates at Carter High School in the Rialto Unified School District not only wants justice and fairness for her daughter, she wants it for the boys.
They need help too, she says.

One incident occurred Tuesday and a subsequent investigation revealed at least two others, and the boys confessed, said the mother.

She was critical of the district for not notifying the police of the incident. She said she had to report it, and is irate that the teacher and aides allowed it to happen by not providing adequate supervision.

Her daughter is quite upset, she said, and she is trying to console her.

The mother, whom The Sun is not naming so as not to identify her daughter, knows what she is talking about. As a caseworker for special-needs children from birth to 3 years old, she knows the rules.

"We take care of our kids," she said. She told school officials, "You guys have violated the Welfare and Institutions Code."

District spokeswoman Syeda Jafri said the district is investigating the incident and promised to cooperate with the police investigation.

She was careful not to place blame, but she said there is a possibility of discipline. Both staff and students are being investigated, she said.

"We have to re-evaluate procedures and see what more must be done" to protect the safety of the children, Jafri said. "We have 28,000 students in the district and for this to happen to one is one too many."

She added: "What's really sensitive about this, is these are special-needs children." She said the boys who did the groping have IQs of about 50. Normal is nearly double that.

The boys are no longer in the class and proper discipline has been used, Jafri said, but privacy rules prevent disclosure of the details.

Sgt. Richard Royce of the Rialto Police Department said Friday by e-mail, "This case is still under investigation and there is no further information available at this time."

The victim's mother, whose 17-year-old daughter is microcephalic, fears the boys were expelled and she worries they will be dumped into another system without treatment or warning. It could happen again to another child, she said.

"I doubt something like this is a first for these boys," the mother said, "something this egregious."

She also is bothered that the other parents of children in the class were not notified about the incidents. There were 10 boys and three girls in the class.

There were at least three incidents involving the girl and three boys, but only one came to light at first, the mother said. She said her daughter was groped on the breast and groin and kissed. She said her daughter sought help from another teacher, who came out of her classroom, but that teacher apparently didn't realize what was going on and merely told them to keep the noise down.

Dawn Meade, the district's director of special education, did not return calls seeking information about the program.

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