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An Attack in an Alley, and Then in The System : School: Angry and frustrated, a parent fights the bureaucracy.

January 23, 1994|LEONARD BUSTOS | Leonard Bustos is an industrial real estate broker in Walnut who is planning to move his family out of California. Rowland district officials declined to write a response to this article. and

On Nov. 3, my 12-year-old daughter was sexually assaulted by two alleged gang members who also attend her school. Fortunately, there were five witnesses. A sheriff's detective investigated and recommended to the district attorney's office that one of the youths (who has allegedly been suspended from the school three times since September) be charged. The detective also informed us that the youths involved have admitted to the attack.

I was satisfied with the detective's response. I thought at least my daughter could get counseling and try to put the incident behind her. My first instinct had been to go after youths, but I realized I would be of no value to my family in prison. I decided to let the school handle it, and this is how they responded.

The principal of her intermediate school said that he would not expel the two students involved. "The most we can do is suspend the youths for five days unless we feel that the youths' presence on campus would have a negative impact upon the individuals academic performance or would create an intimidating, hostile or offensive educational environment," he said, quoting from Rowland Unified School District Board Policy. I could not believe what I was hearing. "Do you realize what kind of message you are sending to the other students?" I asked him. "How can you say that it would not create an intimidating, hostile or offensive educational environment? How can you tell me that they could commit a crime like this and get a five-day vacation?"

I went above him to the district assistant superintendent who, after checking into the incident, agreed with the principal.

You hear about incidents like this and figure there must be another side to the story. In this case, there was. A few weeks before the attack, a sexually explicit and threatening note written by the attacker was confiscated by a teacher who gave it to an administrator at the school, who neglected to tell me or my wife about it. The note described in graphic detail what the attacker was going to do to my daughter.

It is my opinion that the administrators involved in investigating the attack are the same ones who have the most to lose by seeing that the attackers are punished. My wife and I feel that the principal and assistant superintendent have attempted to minimize and downplay the incident to protect themselves from negative exposure caused by their failure to inform us about the note. They are more interested in protecting their image than the children they have the responsibility to protect.

So, we distributed fliers to alert other parents. The vice principal responded with a note to all parents that said "the youths involved have been suspended pending further disciplinary action." On the day the letter was written, a friend of my daughter's told us that one of the youths was back on campus, and the other one would have been if his mother had not voluntarily removed him. Eighteen days after the incident, a demonstration and press conference was held in front of the school. A few hours later, the principal called to tell me that school officials had decided to recommend expulsion for the main offender.

When the hearing for expulsion took place, the principal asked my daughter three or four questions, none pertaining to the main attack in the alley where she screamed and cried to get away from the attacker. When he said there were no further questions, I was astonished that he failed to mention the attack. I asked to make the record reflect the attack. I was asked to leave the room or be arrested.

Then I attended the juvenile criminal hearing, which had to be postponed because the boy's file had been lost in the court system somehow. Last month, I attended the school board meeting and was somewhat relieved that members decided to expel the main offender. But I am still angry, because I honestly feel that if I had not taken off work for the past month to attend meetings and organize a phone and letter campaign and a demonstration, this youth would not have received more than a five-day suspension.

You cannot believe the anger and hurt parents feel when their child has been violated like this, first by the attackers, and then by the system. How can we as a society expect to stop these horrendous crimes against our children unless those responsible for administering justice send a clear message to everyone that we will no longer tolerate it?

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