Mesa police dispute school district’s statements - East Valley Tribune: East Valley Local News

Mesa police dispute school district’s statements

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Posted: Friday, April 2, 2004 9:01 am | Updated: 5:28 pm, Thu Oct 6, 2011.

Mesa police disputed statements Thursday by Mesa Unified School District officials that Mountain View High School administrators followed police instructions when they did not report allegations made in September against a football player.

Mountain View athletic director David Hines and assistant principal Holly Williams face misdemeanor charges of failing to inform police of a female student’s claim that a football player forced her head into his groin Sept. 10 during a science class.

Williams has a hearing 9:15 a.m. today at Mesa Municipal Court, and Hines’ first court appearance will be 1 p.m. April 12.

Also Thursday, the district said the families of the football player and his accuser refused to sign waivers that would have cleared the district to speak more freely about the case.

"The full story would include all information gathered by administrators regarding the incident, only a small amount of which appears in the police report," the district said in an official statement.

The statement said Mountain View officials acted immediately to protect the victim and investigated the incident as soon as they heard about it Sept. 15. The football player served a three-day suspension starting Sept. 16.

District governing board member Elaine Miner said earlier this week that Mountain View administrators "acted on this to a T as to how the police department asked us to handle these incidents."

She said police asked administrators to screen incidents and use discretion when reporting because the department had limited resources.

But Mesa Sgt. Chuck Trapani said officers from Mesa’s Center Against Family Violence, Child Protective Services and the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office have consistently told school officials just the opposite.

"We never said anything like that," he said.

Trapani said Mesa police have the resources to investigate all child abuse reports — even if the Mountain View situation causes a panic among school administrators and leads to a spike in reporting.

"Whenever calls come out, we handle them," Trapani said. "We’ll handle them within a reasonable amount of time."

Arizona School Boards Association attorney Chris Thomas said a spike in reporting would likely result as school officials across the Valley watch the Mountain View case develop — especially since a reporting law that went into effect Sept. 18 makes failure to report child abuse a felony instead of a misdemeanor.

"It may inundate law enforcement with reporting, but better safe than sorry," Thomas said.

Mountain View principal Craig Luketich learned about the incident during a weekly administrators’ meeting on the same day the girl spoke with Hines and Williams, police records show. Luketich did not speak directly with the girl about the allegations and does not face criminal charges for failing to report the incident to police.

The police report shows that Luketich told investigators that he trusted Hines and Williams to handle the situation together, and his staff does not advise him of every disciplinary action it takes.

The report also shows conflicting statements from students about the nature of the relationship between the girl and the football player accused of sexual abuse.

One student told police the two flirted with each other during science class, and the teacher would frequently tell them to stop touching each other. Another student said the Sept. 10 incident "looked more like they were laughing with each other."

But other students who saw the incident said it left the girl embarrassed and angry. One classmate said she saw the girl struggle to get away from the boy, and that she eventually pushed him away after about 10 seconds.

The boy suspected of child abuse told police in an interview Sept. 19 that he did pull the girl’s head toward his groin, and that her head touched the zipper area of his pants. He also said he later grabbed the girl’s hand and placed it on his leg — but he said he did not place her hand on his crotch.

In a police interview Sept. 17 that included both students, the boy apologized for his actions.

"I didn’t know you were that uncomfortable," he said. "I was just messing around and I’m sorry."

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