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Official: School couldn't expel accused teens

Posted: April 17, 2013 4:57 p.m.
Updated: April 17, 2013 4:57 p.m.
 

SANTA CRUZ, Calif. (AP) — A school superintendent said Wednesday that officials could not expel three teenage boys charged with sexually battering a classmate at a party last fall, even after she hanged herself and her family complained that a humiliating photo of the assault was being circulated.

Saratoga schools Superintendent Bob Mistele said the party where the incident involving 15-year-old Audrie Pott occurred was not on campus or related to school.

He also said two of the boys were on the football team and barred from participating.

"While education is a fundamental right, participation in sports is a privilege," he explained.

Three attorneys representing the teens did not return repeated calls seeking comment.

The Pott family filed a lawsuit against the boys and their families on Monday, and has also filed a claim against the Los Gatos-Saratoga Union High School District, alleging that administrators were negligent in addressing bullying against Audrie, who committed suicide eight days after the assault last fall during the house party.

Her family's attorney said the three suspects took her upstairs to a bedroom after she drank a combination of vodka and Gatorade and passed out. The boys assaulted her, drew and wrote on her, and took a photo of an intimate body part, said attorney Robert Allard.

The boys were charged with sexual battery and distribution of child pornography in the fall, but remained in school until Thursday when sheriff's deputies took them out of their classrooms and arrested them.

Their names have not been released because of their ages.

Allard also said the district failed to document a meeting the Pott family had with administrators about bullying several months prior to Audrie's death.

Allard also said a district official announced her death on school loudspeakers before her family realized that the girl, who spent two days on life support, had passed away.

In a written statement responding to questions from The Associated Press and other media, Mistele confirmed that administrators had met with the Pott family before her death and "that the issue of bullying was not the subject covered in those conversations."

He also said Audrie's stepmother Lisa Pott gave the principal permission to announce to the student body that she had died.

"It is a matter of policy and common decency that the school would never announce a student's death without first consulting with the family," he said.

Mistele said that after Audrie's death, a small group of students come to the office to tell an assistant principal that students were talking about an incident at a party involving the girl, and that some photographs were being shared among students.

He said school officials contacted the campus resource officer, but he said it remains "very unclear" whether photographs of the sexual assault were circulated among students on campus.

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.

 

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