Schools rescind girl's suspension


Baltimore school administrators have decided to rescind the suspension of a 10-year-old girl who alleged she was raped by another student in an elementary school stairwell last week, a school system spokesman said yesterday.

The girl will be offered "an administrative transfer" to another school instead of the suspension, spokesman Nat Harrington said. That reverses a Friday decision that infuriated the mayor and police, and perplexed area rape-crisis counselors.

The girl and two boys were suspended from school Friday, four days after the alleged rape occurred at about 1 p.m. at North Bend Elementary School in West Baltimore.

"When she made the decision to suspend the children, [Principal Annette Hall] was not fully aware of the chilling effect that it might have on other children, who need to feel they can tell somebody without being punished if something terrible happens to them," Mr. Harrington said. "We're concerned about that."

He added that the girl's suspension was canceled "to prevent anyone from thinking it is punitive" and to avoid interfering with the police investigation.

Police charged two 10-year-old boys with rape. One served as lookout while the other raped her, police said, although at least one of the boys has said the girl was a willing participant.

On Friday, Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke said in a statement that he "would have preferred that the principal wait until the police had concluded their investigation before taking any punitive action against the victim."

The boys' suspensions remain in force, Mr. Harrington said.

A suspension requires a disciplinary hearing and could lead to a transfer to another school. Any action -- including the proposed administrative transfer offered the girl -- would have to have the approval of her family, Mr. Harrington said.

Schools Superintendent Walter G. Amprey said Friday that the girl's suspension was the only legal tool school officials had to remove the students temporarily from an uncomfortable situation.

Yesterday, he could not be reached for comment, but his deputy superintendent, Patricia E. Newby, approved the decision canceling the girl's suspension.

Ms. Hall declined to comment.

In the school's community Saturday, parents and students expressed outrage and sadness about the alleged rape -- and confusion about the contradictions in the school system's handling of the students who were involved.

No one is certain what actually happened in a second-floor stairwell between children who were not in classes, where they belonged. That the opportunity existed for the alleged rape to take place frightened some students and angered parents.

"There needs to be better security, maybe two or three guards to make the school safe," said Aisha Rashid, 11, a North Bend student who knows the girl involved. "Some of us are afraid to go up the hall to the bathroom."

After the Monday incident, the principal and police began conducting separate investigations.

Conflicting reports from the school system Friday first suggested the girl -- and her two alleged assailants -- were suspended because they participated in "sexual activity."

Later that day, the school system announced that the girl was suspended to protect her from schoolmate's taunts.

Several parents and residents from the Jamestowne town home complex across North Bend Avenue from the school said yesterday that the very notion that a 10-year-old would rape another unsettled them.

"That's a disgrace," said Vertel Nash, whose daughter attended school in the same building years ago. "I don't have any little ones there and thank God."

Roderick Johnson, parent of two North Bend students and a member of the school improvement team, said there is no disorder at the school and the alleged rape is an "isolated incident."

"I blame the security in the school and teachers," said Cornelius Bryant of Emerson Village. "No way children should have that much privilege to roam around the school."

He attributed the incident to poor parental guidance and a lack of recreational opportunities for neighborhood children.

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