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Suspects in Audrie Pott case will not be returning to school

April 17, 2013|By Maria L. La Ganga
  • Sheila Pott, mother of Audrie Pott, who committed suicide after a sexual assault, stands by a photograph of her daughter and a message board during a news conference on Monday in San Jose.
Sheila Pott, mother of Audrie Pott, who committed suicide after a sexual… (Eric Risberg / Associated…)

SAN FRANCISCO -- Two of the young men charged in the alleged sexual assault of sophomore Audrie Pott will not be returning to Saratoga High School "until the case against them is resolved," according to a statement released Wednesday by the superintendent of the Los Gatos-Saratoga Union High School District.

Three 16-year-olds, whose names have not been released because they are juveniles, were arrested last week in the alleged Labor Day weekend attack on Audrie, who later killed herself. They face charges of misdemeanor sexual battery, felony distribution of child pornography and felony forcible sexual penetration. All three were Saratoga High students at the time of the incident; one has since transferred to a different district.

On Tuesday, an attorney for the Pott family said they had filed a claim against the school district for the way officials handled events surrounding the 15-year-old’s death -- and might sue the district in the future.

"The claim generally alleges that administrators were negligent in addressing the bullying Audrie Pott encountered while at Saratoga High School," Robert Allard said in a statement, adding that one of the family’s concerns was the school district’s "failing to expel the three boys from school despite clear evidence of a sexual assault."

In his statement, Supt. Bob Mistele said the district has not responded to media inquiries about the incident because "all indications show this was not a school-related incident" and "the district is prohibited by law from disclosing or discussing details of student discipline cases."

Mistele did say in the four-page "message to the community" that two of the young men charged were members of the Saratoga football team; after the incident, they were removed from the team. But the accused could not be expelled, Mistele said, because "school districts cannot suspend or expel someone from school based solely on alleged behavior outside of school."

Since the three were arrested April 11, however, "this alleged misconduct warrants suspension or placement on independent study so as not to cause a disruption or distraction on campus," Mistele said. The boys’ parents have agreed that their sons will not return to school until the legal case is over, and "if they are found guilty, then expulsion could occur."

On Labor Day weekend, Audrie went to a small party at the Saratoga home of a friend whose parents were out of town. After drinking a combination of alcohol and Gatorade, the 15-year-old passed out.

She woke up, Allard said during an emotional Monday news conference, and found a "nightmare." Her clothes had been wrenched partly off. Her body was scrawled with marking-pen words, including the name of a 16-year-old classmate, followed by the words "was here."

The three young men who were arrested had been Audrie’s friends since middle school. They are suspected by authorities of taking at least one cellphone photo of her while she was unconscious and later showing it to 10 or more classmates.

A week after the incident, Audrie killed herself, after telling friends on Facebook that  "my life is over" and "I’m in hell. Everyone knows about that night."

"These boys distributed pictures to humiliate and further bully my daughter," Sheila Pott, Audrie’s mother, said during the Monday news conference. "These individuals calculated their assault, harassed the victim with the photos and then took steps to cover up the evidence.

"There was no remorse here," she said. "These were not the actions of a child but of a person whose values systems are so skewed that they will do this again."

Earlier this week, the Pott family filed a civil wrongful death suit against the three suspects and the owners of the Saratoga home where the alleged assault occurred.

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maria.laganga@latimes.com

Twitter: @marialaganga

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