Student at Friends School accused of sexually assaulting other students. (WJZ)
A 15-year-old boy has been charged in three alleged sexual assaults on classmates at Friends School of Baltimore between November and January, police said.
The suspect, who was not identified because he is charged as a juvenile, is accused of sexually assaulting two 15-year-old girls and a 15-year-old boy in the separate incidents, two of which happened on the private, Quaker school's campus in Roland Park, police spokesman T.J. Smith said Wednesday. The suspect was charged on Feb. 3.
The suspect is no longer enrolled at Friends, according to Bonnie Hearn, assistant head of school for finance and operations.
School administration, faculty and staff "are committed to nurturing empathy and fostering in our students a strong sense of responsibility for the needs of others," she said in a statement.
"We are deeply saddened and disturbed that one of our students is alleged to have victimized three other students," the statement said. "When the school learned of these allegations, we immediately informed law enforcement authorities and have provided our full cooperation in their investigation."
Hearn added: "We cannot comment on and we have reached no conclusions regarding these allegations."
Melba Saunders, a spokeswoman for the Baltimore State's Attorney's Office, declined to comment Wednesday because the suspect is a juvenile. No further information was available.
The school, founded in 1784, serves students from pre-K through 12th grade.
Friends Head of School Matt Micciche informed middle- and lower-school parents about the first incident, which is alleged to have happened in November, in a Jan. 11 email obtained Wednesday by The Baltimore Sun.
Friends School contacted police in early January on the same day it received that allegation, he said. On the advice of national experts, school officials decided to hire an "experienced, outside, independent investigator" to conduct a separate school investigation into the alleged incident.
"A police investigation," he wrote, "does not negate the need for our own inquiry."
Micciche apologized to parents in the email for being unable to share more details. He asked that any students or parents with information to come forward to him directly, and requested that they refrain from casually discussing the matter.
"In situations such as this, there can be rumors and distortions that can be both hurtful and damaging," he wrote. "We want our students to avoid this kind of activity, and I ask that as parents you help with your modeling and guidance."
In a follow-up email on Monday also obtained by The Sun, Micciche told parents that two subsequent allegations of sexual assault had been made against the same teenager, and the student was no longer enrolled at Friends.
The school's internal inquiry has been delayed to allow police to investigate, he said.
"We plan to move forward when we are able to do so," Micciche said.
The letters to parents were intended not only to provide information but to "model for the children in our care that it is acceptable and important to discuss even the most painful subjects," Micciche said.
"We hope that through our actions we will begin to eliminate some of the stigmas and barriers that have traditionally kept allegations of this nature from surfacing and that have left victims feeling silenced," Micciche wrote.
He reiterated his earlier call for students and parents to refrain from casually discussing the matter, and added a request that they not post about it on social media. Any attempts to influence or retaliate against any of the students involved in the investigation would be considered a serious breach of school conduct, the principal said.
"I have been impressed by the restraint that our students have shown thus far in this regard, and I hope and expect that they will continue to behave admirably," Micciche wrote.
The private school's mission is to prepare students to make positive contributions to the world, and part of its curriculum is devoted to learning about healthy relationships, including sexuality and appropriate conduct, he wrote. Parents are informed of the curriculum and invited to meet and discuss it with the faculty and outside professionals who teach it.
"Learning and conversation around these topics begins —in developmentally appropriate ways —as early as 4th grade and increases in sophistication and frequency as students move through the Middle and Upper School," he wrote. "While discussing these topics can be challenging for all of us, we believe that it is a critical part of young people's development."
Students have recently held events, such as a movie screening Jan. 20 on topics of gender stereotyping and consent, to raise awareness of sexual assault and related issues, Micciche wrote. A Loyola University professor spoke at a Jan. 26 upper school forum about ways to foster a safer and more positive campus culture, he said. Last week, a community educator and a trauma therapist from Turn Around, a local agency working with victims of sexual violence, discussed the specific impacts on victims and shared bystander-intervention tips.
Students have asked to be involved in reviewing and expanding the sex-ed and positive relationship curriculum, and a committee of students, parents, faculty and staff to review the entire school's Wellness and Life Skills curriculum, he said.
"We are intent on doing our part to change these tragic realities, for the sake of our students and our community, as well as for the greater good," Micciche wrote.