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.”