STEVENSVILLE — The Queen Anne’s County Sheriff’s Office, the state’s attorney’s office and the school system are all investigating a reported assault that occurred in the boys locker room at Kent Island High School Friday, April 13, after outrage from parents and members of the community over a perceived lack of response as knowledge of the incident became public.
One or more cell phone videos of the incident were circulated on various social media platforms over the weekend. In the video, a group of boys are shown pinning down and holding another boy while other boys remove their pants and rub their genitals in his face. Parents who contacted the media alleged the boys involved are members of the high school’s lacrosse team.
Queen Anne’s County Sheriff Gary Hofmann said he and State’s Attorney Lance Richardson learned of the incident Sunday, April 15, and the sheriff’s Criminal Investigation Unit and School Resource Unit began investigating. No one in the school system commented on when they learned of the incident.
“My office is working collaboratively with the Office of the Sheriff and the School System to fully investigate this matter. The public and the community need to realize that the allegations of this incident, which has been characterized as a hazing/false imprisonment/sexual assault, are receiving the complete investigative efforts of all three administrations of these respective offices,” Richardson said in an emailed statement.
While the allegations are serious, the specific delinquent acts in question are not ones that would be eligible for prosecution as an adult, Richardson said.
When dealing with the juvenile justice system, all matters are highly confidential, he added.
“My office, law enforcement, and the school system are generally forbidden from discussing the process. So, unfortunately, this is not a transparent process, but I can assure our community that this matter will be handled fairly and in the interest of justice, with an emphasis on the best interests of and compassion for the victim as well,” Richardson said.
Superintendent of Schools Dr. Andrea Kane sent a letter to parents and caregivers on Wednesday, April 17, that said, “A great deal of information is circulating regarding an incident that occurred at Kent Island High School on Friday, April 13th. Administrators were made aware of a video that contained images of one of our Kent Island High School students being subjected to inappropriate and unacceptable acts by peers. Procedures that are outlined in the QACPS Discipline Code were followed and we continue to thoroughly investigate the incident. We have been and are continuing to offer support to the student and his family.”
She continued, “Amid the myriad social media posts, emails, and opinions regarding this incident, please understand that this office does not condone unacceptable behavior demonstrated by students or employees. Acts of bullying, harassment, intimidation or hazing will receive the appropriate consequence as guided by district policy. Additionally, students who engage in acts of bullying, harassment, or intimidation by any method, including electronic communication (cell phone, computer, etc.), will receive the appropriate consequence.”
The QACPS Student Handbook clearly outlines the policy to prohibit bullying and harassment of any person on school property, at school sponsored functions or by the use of electronic technology at a public school and to prohibit reprisal or retaliation against individuals who report acts of bullying and harassment or who are victims, witnesses, bystanders, or others with reliable information about an act of bullying and harassment.
The handbook also outlines five levels of disciplinary action that may be taken in response to any violation of the handbook including in-school removal (in-school suspension), out-of-school removal (short or long term suspension up to 10 days, mentoring programs, expulsion, or referral to alternative education). QACPS also implements peer mediation and community service responses, and removal from athletic/extracurricular programs and activities based on individual situations. According to the handbook an extended out of school suspension may be warranted in some instances up to 45 days.
Student safety continues to be the paramount priority, Kane said.
“We will continue to investigate this incident and do all that we can to ensure the safety and well-being of students,” she concluded.
The school has not disclosed what action is to be taken regarding the students who participated and the investigation into the incident continues.
“The mission of the juvenile justice system in Maryland is guidance, treatment and rehabilitation. The system is not punitive in nature. So punishment is not the goal — rather the goal is to correct and reform juveniles so that they are deterred and rehabilitated in such a fashion that ideally they never enter the adult criminal system once they reach the age of emancipation, which is 18,” Richardson said.