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Tell Muncie Central High School: Report Rape Charges to the Police

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Police in Muncie, Indiana, say that Central High School administrators undermined their ability to investigate a rape charge by failing to report the incident to law enforcement.

When a 16-year-girl told an assistant principal that she had just been dragged into a school bathroom and raped, administrators had her sit in the principal's office for over two hours and told her to write down what had occurred. They didn't bother calling the police or a victim's advocate. When administrators did call the girl's guardian, she was taken to the hospital, and staff there finally called the police. It was then about four hours since the assault had been reported.

Superintendent Eric King defended the school's irresponsible decision by claiming that the girl's story wasn't completely consistent and school administrators doubted the allegation, that "the facts in the case were somewhat vague," and they wanted to investigate themselves. The school officials didn't even bother notifying any one of the four school police officers. Why bother having school police if you don't tell them anything? It's so much better to play make-believe detective and screw up the real investigation.

School administrators had no business deciding not to report a student's rape charge because they were "vague" on the details. Rape is a serious crime and should be reported to police immediately: the student also should have been transported straight to the hospital, rather than made to wait in the principal's office for hours. Delaware County deputy prosecutor Eric Hoffman commented that he was "uncomfortable" with school officials deciding to usurp the role of police, which is perhaps a massive understatement. And Detective George Hooper pointed out that there was a serious cost to the unwarranted delay: other students and probably a cleaning crew had been through the bathroom since the rape occurred, so any evidence that could have been available at the crime scene was lost to police.

No matter what the circumstances, the point is this: when a student reports being raped on school grounds, police get called immediately. School pencil-pushers don't get to make the decision as to whether the rape allegation is true or not and deny the victim a chance at justice. Even if the story seems "vague" or inconsistent, especially since a teen who has just been raped might not have her thoughts at their most coherent or collected. (Police, by the way, say the girl's story of what occurred has been consistent whenever they've spoken to her, once they got the chance.)

The school's incompetence and lack of regard for the well-being of a student could have cost this girl a chance to have her rapist caught and committed. And the administrators who made that decision have no place running a high school. Central High School Principal Christopher Smith and the assistant principal involved in the failure to report the crime to police should be immediately removed from their positions for demonstrating such an utter lack of good decision-making ability. This isn't a frivolous error: it seriously undermined a rape investigation.

Despite his defense of the officials decision not to bother notifying police, Superintendent King is considering policy changes in the wake of outrage over the school's failure. King must apologize to the victim for the school's action and his own defense of questioning her charge rather than reporting it, and issue a statement of policy that crimes occurring on school grounds, especially something as serious as rape, will promptly be reported to police.

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