Alleged sexual assault at game investigated

ST. CLAIRSVILLE — City police are investigating the alleged sexual assault of a fifth-grade student during a St. Clairsville High School football game on Oct. 13.

St. Clairsville Police Chief Jeff Henry said evidence in the case has been turned over for review by Belmont County Juvenile Prosecutor Rhonda Greenwood. He said Greenwood is expected to decide whether any criminal charge — and, if so, which one — should be levied against a female fifth-grader who allegedly knocked down and pinned down another female fifth-grade student. The girl then allegedly let the victim up off the ground before pulling down the victim’s pants and underwear, exposing her to a group of students. Greenwood did not respond to phone messages seeking comment on the case.

The victim’s mother believes what happened to her daughter is a case of sexual assault. The Times Leader is withholding the mother’s name in an attempt to protect the child’s identity.

“I was at the game. I have reserved seats on the 50 yard line and my children are required to report in at least once a quarter. She was with four other girls initially, then one of the girls saw a group of boys and ran toward them stating she was going to report my daughter liked one. My daughter and another girl chased her. The girl running stopped, threw my daughter to the ground, straddled her and pinned her shoulders, called the boys over, allowed my daughter to stand and then pulled her pants and underwear to her calves. My daughter hit her to get away, pulled her pants up and ran,” the mother said.

Henry said what happened to woman’s daughter is wrong and should have never occurred. He added that he is not sure what occurred was an actual sexual assault, but more likely an assault or a case of menacing.

“Based on the information I received, there was no sexual assault. The girl was ‘pantsed.’ … The way I read it in the report, one girl ‘pantsed’ another girl. … There may be an assault there — anytime you touch somebody,” Henry said.

For Henry, it doesn’t matter whether an assault was committed by an adult or a juvenile — either way it is against the law.

“It’s definitely not right what happened — I don’t care if they’re a fifth-grader. It’s definitely not kid stuff and not behavior we want to see, period,” Henry said.

Henry said the victim’s mother called the police station the night the incident occurred and came in with her daughter the next day to talk with an officer. The school decided to suspend the accused student, Henry said.

The mother said the accused student received a five-day in-school suspension, but she believes the girl should be expelled from school for what she allegedly did.

Henry said, according to his officers’ investigation, the alleged incident occurred in an area near the J.B. Martin Recreation Center, the field house and restrooms. Henry said he could not provide a copy of the police report until after the case was resolved by the juvenile prosecutor’s office.

After reading on social media about the incident, fellow St. Clairsville resident Dana Sandra said she messaged the victim’s mother asking how she could help. She said the mother told her people were interested in staging a public protest. Sandra said she plans to protest outside the school starting at 6:45 a.m. Monday.

She said she wants the school to start educating children about sexual assault and what to do if they see such a thing happening.

Sandra said sexual assault is never the victim’s fault.

“Kids don’t watch football games, they run around with their friends. That’s how it was when I was growing up,” Sandra said.

Sandra said she doesn’t know what kind of signs people may bring to the protest, but hers will say “Enough is enough.”

Superintendent Walt Skaggs and middle school Principal Mike McKeever did not respond to phone messages seeking comment on the situation. However, lawyer Al Davies, who is representing the school district, issued a statement regarding the incident. In his initial statement, it appears what was revealed during the police department’s investigation and the school district’s investigation are quite different:

“This was a matter between two 5th grade students at a football game who were discussing/teasing about the crushes they have on certain boys. The situation that occurred between them was thoroughly investigated by the Administration. As a result of that investigation discipline was imposed against one of the girls and the discipline was appropriate based upon the findings of the investigation and was consistent with how similar situations have been addressed by the administration.” his statement read.

“The parent of one of the students has filed a complaint with law enforcement and the matter is currently being reviewed by the Belmont County Prosecutor’s Office. The Belmont County Prosecutor will decide if any laws were broken and whether charges need to be filed. That issue is for the Prosecutor to decide and not the school district.

“Out of respect for the review being conducted by the Prosecutor the school district will not have any further comment on the matter at this time; however, it is very frustrating for the Administration that people who do not know all the facts of the investigation, or are hearing only one side of the story from individuals who may have not even been present during the situation, are out there on social media making findings and conclusions.

“Those social media findings and conclusions are not consistent with the facts and circumstances of this event which, again, involved two 5th grade students talking about/teasing about crushes on boys. Undoubtedly, the Board of Education for the St. Clairsville City School District, the Administration, teachers and employees of the district take very seriously matters concerning the safety of the students and rules/regulations are in place to promote and address the safety of the students. Unfortunately, sometimes kids don’t follow the rules and situations then occur that the school district’s administrators must address. This matter was addressed appropriately and properly,” Davies wrote.

Davies later clarified his statement, noting the district’s investigation also made officials aware of the same allegations that the girl’s pants had been pulled down. Their investigation, he said, resulted in the student’s punishment of in-school suspension.

“We can’t say exactly what happened. … What happened as the alleged victim says it happened is not sexual battery as defined by Ohio Revised Code,” Davies said.

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