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Alleged Rape Racially Driven, Authorities Say

Bloomington High School, whose students are accused, denies the assertion.

March 12, 2004|Sandra Murillo | Times Staff Writer

Authorities investigating the alleged rape of a 15-year-old Bloomington High School girl by two classmates said Thursday that the attack was racially motivated and part of a recent pattern of racial problems at the school.

Students and administrators at the San Bernardino County campus disputed that assertion, however, saying the alleged rape and other incidents did not occur on school grounds and ran counter to the attitudes of the diverse student body.

"I don't come to school in fear of anything," said senior Kristin Quihuis. "I think they're taking one incident and trying to relate it to everything else."

San Bernardino County sheriff's investigators said the alleged rape followed an incident in February in which several African American students and Latino students clashed, trading racial epithets and throwing water bottles at one another. The students involved were suspended.

Although not race-related, two other violent incidents involving Bloomington High students have occurred since November: Two students, 13 and 14, have been accused of raping a girl at a New Year's Eve party. And on Friday night a student was shot and seriously wounded after a fight at a party near Valley Boulevard and Linden Avenue in Bloomington, an unincorporated community between Rialto and Fontana, said Sheriff's Det. Maggie Finneran.

The alleged rape victim told investigators she knew at least one of the boys accused of attacking her from a class they had together, Finneran said.

The youths offered the girl a ride home after school Friday but took her to the Rialto home of one of the boys instead, authorities said. They carried her into the house, threw her on a bed and pulled out a handgun, authorities said. The girl told authorities she was raped and forced to perform sex acts and was let go at a Fontana park a short time later.

The two 17-year-old students were arrested Saturday and were being held at a county juvenile facility.

Citing the ongoing investigation, Finneran would not explain why authorities believe the attack was racially motivated.

"That will all come out eventually, but I'm confident" that the rape had something to do with the girl's race, Finneran said. Authorities did not state the race of the alleged rapists or victim.

On Thursday, the Colton Unified School District and the school's principal sent a letter home to parents alerting them to the alleged incident.

"Statements have been published that the attack was racially motivated or connected to racial tension at Bloomington High School," Principal Ignacio Cabrera said in the letter. "On the contrary, we have experienced a very quiet campus this year with the exception of a brief incident several weeks ago at lunch that was broken up quickly."

Colton Joint Unified School District officials stressed that the alleged rape occurred off campus and told parents to encourage their children to walk in groups to and from school, avoid walking through deserted areas and to organize carpools.

"It's very discouraging to see, because our students are being painted with a broad brush," said district Supt. Dennis Byas. "This is the only high school in the community, so if something happens, they're going to be from our high school. If this actually happened, we're hoping they prosecute to the fullest extent, as adults, not children."

Along with the other recent violent incidents, George Bonilla, 16, was shot dead Nov. 21 in what police described as a gang-related attack in Bloomington.

Finneran said Bonilla also attended Bloomington High, but that could not be confirmed by district officials.

"In actuality, the campus itself is a very safe place," Finneran said. "Statistically compared to other campuses, they're doing very well. The problem is peripheral violence in the community that might involve the students."

Joseph Rodriguez, director of the school's Gang Reduction Intervention Team, said many students were planning to write letters to newspapers that reported the alleged rape.

"A lot of the students here are very upset," he said. "They're saying: Stop saying our school is a ghetto school or a hood school."

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