School administrators return to work following alledged rape

December 18, 2009 4:36:46 PM PST
Portola Middle School's principal and assistant principal returned to work today after being put on paid administrative as authorities investigated the alleged rape of a seventh-grade girl on the El Cerrito campus last week.

West Contra Costa Unified School District spokesman Marin Trujillo said the pair resumed normal duties today, and that the school district continues to work "hand-in-hand with the Police Department" in investigating the reported rape Dec. 10 on a stairwell at the campus at 1021 Navellier St.

A 14-year-old boy allegedly raped the 12-year-old girl between 2:40 p.m. and 2:50 p.m. on the stairwell, which was empty because classes were in session. Both students apparently had a reason not to be in class at the time.

During the assault, another student entered the stairwell, witnessed what had happened and told a school resources officer, El Cerrito police Cmdr. Michael Regan said.

Police arrested the suspect at his Richmond home that night. He was taken to juvenile hall in Martinez and has been charged with rape and false imprisonment.

Principal Denise VanHook and assistant principal Matthew Burnham had been put on paid administrative leave while officials investigated why the students didn't have some sort of supervision.

Trujillo said he could not comment on personnel issues and what factors went into deciding to allow the school administrators to return to the job.

Regan said today police found nothing that showed school staff had acted inappropriately.

Trujillo said the incident has prompted school officials to examine their policies of supervising students. Starting this week, students must be escorted by a school staff member whenever they need to leave class, aside from passing periods, he said.

The school district is also continuing to investigate the apparent breakdown in supervision.

"The investigation continues to be ongoing," Trujillo said. "We're taking it very seriously."

Regan said police have learned the victim had complained to school staff about the suspect prior to the alleged rape, and that police are investigating the validity of the complaint. He wouldn't elaborate on the nature of the complaint, other than to say it's still under investigation.


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