After a two-month investigation, Durham police said Wednesday no sexual assault occurred on the back of a Durham Public Schools bus in September.
On Sept. 12, two mothers claimed three older students had sexually abused their two 5-year-old sons.
Police said another incident of a sexual nature on the bus was reported Sept. 29, but have released no details about it.
Durham Police Chief Jose Lopez said investigators were able to identify the alleged perpetrator in the Sept. 12 incident but determined that no sexual assault occurred. He said the descriptions of what happened were consistent with hazing and bullying and that no criminal charges will be filed.
“No sexual assault occurred. No clothes were ever removed, but there were sexual overtones with the bullying,” Lopez said. He would not comment further because the students are juveniles but said parents should still report allegations of sexual assault so that police can look into them.
A spokeswoman for the Police Department said specially trained investigators from Duke University’s Child Abuse and Medical Evaluation Clinic also interviewed the children involved and made the same determination.
Two Latino mothers said their 5-year-old sons were sexually assaulted by three older boys. One mother said her son described oral sex and said he was forced to perform and receive it. She said he was hit by the three older boys who pinned him down until he complied.
The other mother said her son, who knows little English, told her the older boys made him “kiss their private parts.”
It is the policy of The News & Observer not to identify people who are reported to be the victims of a sexual assault.
The lawyer for the two mothers, Marie Lang of the Law Offices of James Scott Farrin, said her office is still investigating the case.
“The families of the children involved in this disturbing incident remain deeply concerned,” she said in a statement.
Durham Public Schools is also conducting its own investigation.
Superintendent Bert L’Homme said in a statement that the district is still waiting for the police’s full report.
“We have been concerned for our students, and while we are relieved that criminal charges appear not to be warranted, we are wrapping up our own school-based investigation to determine what additional actions or supports need to be in place for the students involved,” L’Homme said in a statement.
Emails suggest the school system’s investigation may also find no sexual assault occurred.
Principal LaManda Pryor emailed area superintendent John McCain on Sept. 22, indicating the school had been unable to determine what actually occurred and who the alleged students were.
“I do believe that something inappropriate was asked of one of the kindergarten students to do to other kindergarten student, but we cannot find any evidence that the two actually carried it out,” Pryor wrote to the McCain.
L’Homme announced last month that a camera would be placed on every bus that did not have one and said bus monitors would be another good idea. A monitor was placed on the W.G. Pearson bus after the allegations but having one ride on every bus could cost $5 million, the transportation staff said.
Whatever the school system’s investigation finds, cameras are now on all buses, said spokeswoman Chrissy Pearson said Wednesday.
“Regardless of the outcome, whether this happened or didn’t happen, the measures to prevent something like this from happening should be in place anyway,” she said.