School employees defend teen accused of rape

December 15, 2009 12:00:00 AM PST
There are difficult new questions about what really happened in the stairwell of an East Bay middle school. A 12-year-old girl claims she was raped by a 14-year-old classmate, but some have their doubts.

The 14-year-old defendant was scheduled to be arraigned in court Tuesday afternoon, but that was put off until Thursday. Police and prosecutors maintain that what happened at Portola Middle School was in fact, a serious sexual assault. Others, employees of the school in El Cerrito, are telling a much different story.

"We monitor the hallways, the stairways, we're up and down all day long," says Marquita Dones.

Dones is one of four paid site supervisors at El Cerrito's Portola Middle School. She and a co-worker are disputing whether a 12-year-old 7th-grade girl was actually raped by a 14-year-old 8th-grade boy last Thursday.

"If she was being raped, why didn't she scream?" Dones asks. "Why did these students have to come up and tell us that somebody's down there?"

Mustapha Cannon says, "It was hormones going wild."

Cannon is another full-time site supervisor at Portola and says, "I know the girl and I know the guy. I know... and I know the girl's family. I know for a fact that that girl could've knocked that guy out with one hand tied behind her back."

Despite claims that the sex between the two students was consensual, under California law, a child cannot consent to a sexual act.

Juvenile prosecutor Dan Cabral says, "A child under the age of 14 cannot be touched."

Although he would not specify the exact charge until the boy is arraigned, Cabral says it is a serious felony.

"Regardless of consent or not, no person in the State of California is allowed to touch a child under the age of 14 for purposes of sexual gratification," he says.

At Portola, in the wake of last week's incident, both the school principal and vice-principal have been put on paid administrative leave.

"There were students out in the hallways and in the stairwells instead of in class. There was a breakdown somewhere," said Nia Rashidchi with the West Contra Costa School District. "So we're looking at the facts right now making sure what happened and what didn't happened, talking to all the different people we need to talk to and then fixing the problem."

El Cerrito police say the school employees that claim nothing serious happened have not come forward as witnesses who saw anything directly related to the case. They are asking anyone who did see anything to come forward.

The 14-year-old defendant in this case will be back in court on Thursday.


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