Superintendent Bert L’Homme said a school principal acted promptly when she learned a 5-year-old boy might have been sexually abused on the back of a school bus.
Speaking at Thursday night’s school board meeting, L’Homme said he could not discuss details of the case because of student privacy laws.
“What I can tell you is that the principal acted immediately upon learning of the allegations to begin an internal investigation and to determine whether there was an active threat to the students at W.G. Pearson, and it was her determination that there was not,” he said.
“It is our understanding that law enforcement was immediately notified of the allegations,” L’Homme said. “Counsel and support has been offered to the child making the allegations.”
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“The safety of every child at Durham Public Schools is our greatest concern, and we are actively cooperating with the Durham Police Department,” he added.
No action had been taken against the driver as of Wednesday. Durham Public Schools spokeswoman Chrissy Pearson said the driver was not disciplined because he was not involved in the allegation.
Police and school officials would not disclose the driver’s name, how long he has been an employee or how many students were on the bus.
Pearson did say most buses have one camera positioned to view students from the front of the bus. Buses with two cameras “add the capability to view the stairwell and door.”
She also said elementary school students in kindergarten through fifth-grade ride the same bus and that there is no policy regarding assigned seats.
“Drivers determine what works best for their individual bus and student population,” she said.
The mother of a 5-year-old at W.G. Pearson Elementary School, says, on Sept. 11, three older students forced her son to receive and perform oral sex on them.
The mother asked that her name not be used to protect the privacy of her son; it is the policy of The News & Observer not to identify people who are reported to be the victims of a sexual assault.
“They hit him,” the mother said in her native Spanish. She said while one student had a foot on her son’s stomach, another had his foot on his neck telling her son that he had to do it.
She said her son tried to get away but couldn’t.
The mother said she drove to the school to report what happened and was told the incident would be reported to police. But when she went to the police station the next day, she says no police report had been filed. So she filed one herself, she said.
“My son is the victim here, and this is going to stick with him forever,” the mother said.
According to school board policy, “any teacher or other school employee who receives from a student a report (oral or written) of alleged sexual harassment shall immediately report the same to the school principal, and the principal shall promptly inform the superintendent of the allegations. Failure by the employee to do so may subject the employee to disciplinary action.”
The mother reported the incident to Qué Pasa, a Spanish newspaper, which published a story about it Wednesday. She said only then did the school act.
Durham Police Chief Jose Lopez said the department is very sensitive to crimes involving children and formed a Special Victims Unit in 2012 to investigate sex crimes and sexual assault cases.
“I have every confidence the investigation will be handled with great care and sensitivity to find out what happened,” he said.