Families alerted about attempted sexual assault of 12-year-old — a week later

It was about 4:05 p.m. when a man jumped out of the bushes on 14th Street, east of Adeline, and grabbed a 12-year-old West Oakland Middle School student who was walking home from school with a friend; the man — whom neither of the girls knew — tried to pull down her pants, but a passerby screamed and chased him away, the girl’s mother said.

That was Jan. 4 — nine days ago. The following day at school, just down the street from where the attack took place, the girl reported the incident to the police. But school officials have waited more than a week to tell families on the old Lowell campus about the potential safety threat in the neighborhood. (A bulletin might have gone out today.)

In fact, the 12-year-old’s mother said a school administrator advised her not to talk about the incident because it might cause people to panic. She said she felt conflicted about the advice — especially when she heard a rumor about a similar assault happening in the same place, days later, to a non-student — and that she was relieved when she heard on Tuesday that the school did plan to send an alert to parents.

“If nobody knows, they won’t keep their guard up,” the mother said.

I haven’t yet reached the school principal (though I left a message about an hour ago) to hear her rationale for keeping the off-campus incident quiet for so long while the man in question could still be in the area.

District spokesman Troy Flint said he only learned about the attack this week and that he didn’t know why families weren’t notified more quickly — possibly, he said, because it happened off-campus and there was a perception that it wasn’t the school’s responsibility to do so.

“It’s not really a model for how we want to do things,” Flint said, adding, “There’s no question that people would want to know.”

Katy Murphy

Education reporter for the Oakland Tribune. Contact me at kmurphy@bayareanewsgroup.com.

  • Nextset

    Hmmm… It still hurts when I read about such organizational behavior occurring. Here’s what this means, people.

    The school doesn’t care about the students.

    And that hurts. I already know these schools have little regard for the safety and future of their students, especially the black and brown ones. I know this intellectually but emotionally I like to think that they really do care for the kids and are just misguided. Well, No. No educated professional is misguided for long about the things we talk about on this blog. They know what they are doing, it’s the rest of us that are refusing to see what is in front of our eyes.

    If they cared about the kids they would have instantly spread warning about a specific predator lurking in the area that is targeting children. It’s not such a common thing that they would forget or not bother to do this. You see, they – the school administrators – just don’t care about the safety of the children attending the school. That’s the inescapable sum of their actions. I remember such specific warnings (about off campus hazards and incidents) on rare occasions during primary school a lifetime ago. Rarely, but if there was an incident by the next day it was announced to all at the beginning of the next day or sooner in every classroom. I don’t remember how it was communicated to the parents but we all discussed it with the parents.

    And I wouldn’t be surprised to see filthy bathrooms here either. And other unsafe operating conditions. Because they don’t really care.

    Doesn’t matter why.

    The question here is why some parents have their kids in such a school.

  • harlemmoon

    No question that there was an scandalous failure to communicate this awful incident to the school community. But the police also bear some responsibility, too. After all, the incident was reported to the authorities. And if, as the mother indicated, there was a similar attack, it behooves the police to solicit the public’s help in capturing the suspect.
    Ideally, the police and the schools are working hand-in-hand on such high-profile issues that impact he safety and security of students, staff and the larger school community. No that the word is out perhaps we’ll see a letter to parents, cops will step up patrols, and perhaps someone got a look at the suspect so that a sketch can me made and disseminated.

  • Gordon Danning

    I agree with Nextset; after all, we all know that humans beings are perfect in every way. Thus, any suboptimal outcome cannot possibly be the result of oversight, or mistake, or other human failing, but rather can only be intentional or “not caring.” Heck, I’m pretty sure all the adults at that school are kicking themselves because they didn’t think of attacking kids themselves.

    And, apparently, human beings are omniscient as well; otherwise, how could the prepubescent Nextset possibly know that parents were alerted to “every” incident near his elementary school? Oh, right, those were the “good old days,” so everything was better back then — that’s what “good old” means, after all.

  • wannabe teacher

    I recently worked at that school and the principals (there are two) are both African-American and I know they care about their students. I used the girls’ bathroom and it was perfectly clean. I am not sure there is a clean boys’ bathroom anywhere due to boys being boys. Maybe they made an error in not mentioning it right away but perhaps they were afraid of panicking the students. Give them the benefit of the doubt.

  • harlemmoon

    Better to “panic” the students, Wannabe, than to have even one of them viciously assaulted, no?

  • wannabe teacher

    What I was trying to say, Harlemmoon is don’t be so harsh on the principals. Nextset says he can tell they don’t care about the kids from their actions but I am saying he doesn’t know any thing about that and not to make snap judgments. You don’t know whey they didn’t tell the parents the next day so why not wait until you know facts instead of jumping to conclusions. And do you think it is better to cry fire in a crowded theater or wait until you know if there is really a fire? (rhetorical question because obviously you do).

  • Union Supporter-But

    We often talk about the things wrong in Oakland, the lack of transparency and whether we really care about our kids. We have argued frequently about how Oakland and Oakland Unified cares just as much about our students safety as any well-functioning school district.

    I believe we do not care in the same way. We care in a way that first protects adults, then protects adults financially and then finally protects children. I am attaching a notice that middle school families in Lafayette received via email and by physical paper within one day of a student bringing this to an adult’s attention. This is what a functioning district that truly cares about its students BEFORE caring about money or before caring about adults in the case where students MAY be in danger – before an actual danger exists:

    Hello Stanley Families-

    We have recently learned about an individual whom we are concerned about on the Facebook social networking website. Please ask your student if they have a Facebook account, and if they have been invited recently to be a friend by someone they don’t know.

    Our concerns regarding this individual are several:
    · Students have no idea who this individual is, and large numbers of current and former Stanley students have “friend”ed this stranger
    · This individual continues to make friend requests of our current and former students
    · Rumors are that one of the Stanley administrators is the secret identity of this individual (not true)
    · Suggestions are also being made that the individual may be a predator
    · By “friending” this individual, students have made their own Facebook profiles open to a stranger.

    We are in touch with Facebook administrators and the Lafayette Police Department to explore all the options available to us regarding this page. If your child has a Facebook account, we strongly recommend that you use this opportunity to discuss cyber safety issues with regards to online strangers and predators. We also recommend sitting with your child reviewing your child’s Facebook “friends”. We think it advisable that they remove any “friends” they don’t personally know. Remember, a Facebook “friend” has access to virtually all the postings and profile information your child has on his or her site. Thanks again for helping us to make all our students safe and responsible.

    Please call or email me with any concerns or questions. If you have any information about this person, please don’t hesitate to contact us here in the office at 927-3530.

    David Schrag
    Principal, Stanley Middle School
    3455 School Street
    Lafayette, CA. 94549
    925-283-1797 Fax

  • Nextset

    Wannabe and Harlemmoon:

    I am not surprised at your response and the information about who is running the OUSD school in question that failed and neglected to warn families about a predator lurking nearby having approached a students. My comments stand.

    Union Supporter’s example of what a real school does when it’s students are threatened is classic. This is nothing new, warnings like this have been (quickly) published by decent schools public and private for 100 years.

    The staff at the suspect school appear to be so far gone from proper concern that they would utter excuses why they didn’t act. That’s what people who don’t care do. They cannot help the way they don’t feel. To their credit they may well be acting under secret orders from OUSD limiting when and how they are ever permitted to publish family notices and warnings. I don’t actually point at them individually since I can’t possibly know the working conditions they must have to live under working in a failed school system such as OUSD. And I’m very impressed if the bathrooms are clean since that is a very important indicator of the care and concern resident in any particular school.


    Collectively, thie OUSD school and school system are not caring for the safety of the children and the white schools do. There, I’ve said it.

    There are different standards going on in Calif public education and much of the differences are tied to the decisions of the operators to pacify the minority populations in education by not shaking them up or letting on to them that they are not being treated as well as or as importantly as some others who are. The cardinal rule is not “upsetting” anybody. Or maybe it’s don’t pee on them if they’re on fire. I don’t know. Sometimes words fail me. But I do know this kind of treatment when it’s going on.

    What we are complaining here couldn’t happen in a white school district. It would be unthinkable. And that’s how I see it. They react to even more discreet threats to their kids such as some wierdo on Facebook -because they consider every one of their students more valuable and more important than you-know-who.

    Tell me how I’m wrong. I’d feel better if I were.

    OUSD deserves much scorn for this one – if it’s true. I wasn’t there. I’m only going on the thread we are discussing. I hope this isn’t true. But I am not surprised.

  • harlemmoon

    Wannabe, it’s clear there was an incident. No crying wolf here. As such, everyone should have been notified – immediately. And to your point: An ounce of prevention…

  • Nextset

    Oh, and don’t change the subject about what the police may or may not have done. Their charge is different that the schools and they have a lesser duty to protect and prevent crime.

    You cannot sue the City or the Police for not responding to a call for help or not coming to your aid or not protecting you. You are responsible for your own protection and that of your children. The schools are in place of parents and do have a duty to the children to use reasonable means to protect them from forseeable danger on campus, to and from and at school functions. The city doesn’t even have to have police patrols.

    Once the school is on notice of a hazard affecting the kids in these settings they have to react reasonably. They may not have to provide escorts to and from school but they may never remain silent about known hazards when any reasonable person would have at least warned or taken other steps to abate the hazard.

    And if you really care about your charges you don’t need classroom training to react. If these administrators failed to react maybe it was because they were forbidden to do so or thought they were by school policies not disclosed to us. It’s not unusual for schools to secretly forbid or discourage police calls or child abuse reports. It’s also not unusal (normal even) for medical facilities to forbid revelation of misconduct or even criminal activity except to closed channels. In other words Nurses are forbidden in writing under pain of firing or worse from telling you or the police about any number of negligent or criminal things done to you they learn about. That may seem off the subject but in defense of these administrators or teachers their hands may have been tied by bad school protocol interfering with reporting.

    Such policies are common when the customers are perceived as disposable.

  • Union Supporter-But

    Yesterday’s Tribune (Saturday, January 23, 2010) finally printed the sketch of the guy who attacked the middle school girl 19 days earlier.