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Scott Anderson of Anderson & Bliven P.C. Montana School Law Lawyers and Montana Personal Injury Attorneys represent the child victim and the family regarding a violent sexual assault, also commonly referred as rape, which occurred at the Great Falls High School. At the time of the incident in September of 2011 the victim was 15 years old child. The felony sexual assault was committed by an upperclassman Alex Mauricio Botina-Roehm an 18 year old senior. The incident has been referred to as the Great Falls High School Sexual Abuse Scandal.
Great Falls High School sexual assault was a result of a hostile environment, involving assaults upon the sophomore football practice squad members perpetrated by older varsity Great Falls High School Football team, in particular Roehm who was a very popular player. The practice, which was allowed as reported by the victim, occurred for over a 1 year period where the older upper classmen would assault to younger players in the shower by grabbing the younger children by the genitals and throwing them down onto the ground. This environment escalated into a felony sexual assault along with two other counts of assault brought by the Cascade County Attorney’s office. Great Falls High School personnel permitted such assaults which included grabbing the genitals of the underclassmen on the football team by the upperclassmen. School Officials have called it “horseplay”.
The victims’ mother reported the sexual assault abuse on or about September 15, 2011 in written email to a Great Falls High School Official. Like many victims, the minor child victim in this case was concerned about his safety, along with the fear of further assaults. In fact the victim asserts that he was threatened with assaults by Roehm and others, after the written report of the sexual assault to Great Falls High School officials.
Both the victim and others, had been physically and verbally abused. He was fearful of retaliation, and again suffering severe injury through another attack. Two of the victims’ friends were actually attacked after the report was made to school officials. As a result the family made a written report and provided explicit details of the sexual assaults occurring in the great falls high school locker room.
Due to this fear of retaliation and trauma to the 15 year old victim, his mother when reporting in great detail the vicious assault, had simply requested anonymity, but firmly requested that the matter be handled immediately as her son was fearful of returning to school. Roehm has been charged with felony sexual assault.
Great Falls Superintendent Crawley has made many inconsistent statements, mostly providing excuses for the failure to report. According to the Great Falls Tribune, Crawley now claims confusion on the reporting law claiming it was the staff’s understanding that it only involved abuse in the home not at the school. In fact, Montana Law requires school officials to report abuse whenever suspected, whenever reported, whether anonymously or otherwise.
Sec. 41-3-201 MCA, provides “school teachers, other school officials and employees who work regular school hours” must report any “reasonable cause to suspect, as a result of the information they receive in their professional or official capacity, that a child is abused or neglected by anyone.“(emphasis, added)
In a prior tribune article, Crawley dispassionately complained about having to deal with possible lawsuits if discipline was imposed. However, as to reporting requirements Superintendent Crawley herself has defined the circumstances in the school district reporting policy as follows:
ANY DISTRICT EMPLOYEE WHO HAS REASON TO SUSPECT THAT A STUDENT MAY BE AN ABUSED OR NEGLECED CHILD SHALL REPORT . . . .
Moreover, The Great Falls School District training materials provide an even clearer explanation of the Great Falls High School reporting requirements. As part of its PowerPoint presentation on Mandatory Reporting, the School District stated, “Any district employee who has a reason to suspect that a student may be an abused child shall report such a case to the Montana Department of Family Services (DPHHS). The Employee should notify the principal that a report has been made.”
In the same training presentation, the Great Falls High School District defined “Child abuse or neglect” as “Actual physical or psychological harm to a child; substantial risk of physical or psychological harm to a child; or
Abandonment.” As examples of child abuse, the School District included, “physical injury,” “sexual abuse”, “bullying” and” harassment.”
The presentation also stated that school employees “must report promptly upon employee becoming aware of alleged misconduct (within 24 hours).”
The situation in this case involved a complete breakdown of trust and disregard of duty on the part of certain school officials. When the victim’s mother reported the abuse that occurred in the locker room she did so hoping that the school would protect the victim’s anonymity and that the school would report the abuse to the proper officials. After reporting the incident a school counselor, the counselor sent an email to the victim’s mother stating “Just to let you know this will be addressed today. If you are comfortable, please tell [the victim] thank you for having courage to tell you.”
In a subsequent email to the school official, the victim’s mother stated,” The kids need to understand that their perceived innocent fun and games is exactly the same behavior that get[s] people expelled from school, fired from jobs, or land[s] them in jail, [or] registering as a sex offender for the rest of their lives.”
When the victim’s mother wrote “I’ve assured him the situation is being handled in such a manner that no one will know from whom or when the complaint was made…” her intent was to clarify with the school that the victim’s identity would be protected while she was reassured that prompt immediate action was taken. Over 6 weeks past while the harassment, bullying and attacks continued without any school action, until the family notified the school police officer directly.
The family relied upon the school officials promises that the reported abuse would be addressed. She assumed that the proper legal actions would be taken. She assumed that the school would alert the authorities about the assaults taking place inside the shower at the Great Falls High School Locker Room.
“This resulted in a complete breakdown of trust between my child and family that the Great Falls School District cared about the permanent damage done to my child.” Stated the grandmother.
While there certainly are many underpaid and hardworking teachers at the Great Falls High School, the problem based upon Superintendent Crawley’s seeming indifference and inconsistent excuses lies squarely upon her feet.
While there are billboards around the Great Falls, Montana area which indicate a “ZERO TOLLERANCE” against any bullying, Crawley now makes excuses. Crawley promised a prompt independent investigation and report to be completed by neutral third party investigator. Instead, school defense attorney, Meagan Morris was hired for the task. The School District announced it completed its investigation and the report would be made public over one month ago. It has not been released to date. Maybe the reason the investigative report has not been released is because the original draft, did not result in favorable conclusions and revisions continue in progress, with excuses floated in the press like trial balloons.
Instead of admitting mistakes were made, acknowledging that a horrific traumatic assault occurred and subsequent abuse violations occurred after reporting to Great Falls High School Officials, Crawley seemed more concerned with public image and protecting the Great Falls School Districts upper level bureaucracy from the Great Falls High School sexual assault scandal.
All Montanans with children in school, expect school official to protect our children. We entrust them to their care during school hours. The breach of trust and confidence in this case should raise great concern about how the high level bureaucrats who receive the largest salaries, perceive their responsibilities of trust and protection towards Montana’s children and their conflict to protect their own bureaucracy though denial of responsibility.
I do not believe any parent can feel secure about the safety of their children in the Great Falls School District considering, the attitude of the upper echelon of the Great Falls, Montana, School District.
In this situation, and similar situations of abuse on Great Falls School District Campuses as reported previously by the Great Falls Tribune the Superintendent Crawley puts a nail in the coffin of what trust and credibility the upper level bureaucrats have with the students and the parents of the Great Falls Community.
Article written by Scott Anderson of Anderson & Bliven, Montana School Law Attorneys and Montana Personal Injury Lawyers.