BRADENTON – The Manatee County School District is using an outside investigator to determine whether a principal failed to report an alleged sexual assault of a Palmetto High School student, as required by state statutes. The district originally reported to school board members that Principal Willie Clark had not failed in his responsibilities. However, superintendent Rick Mills, who had come on board while the investigation was in progress, decided to employ an external investigator to look into the case.
The allegations come just after the Bradenton Police Department asked the State Attorney's office for as many as five arrests in relation to a similar investigation at Manatee High School, four of which are reportedly linked to failure to report allegations of sexual misconduct.
Last year, in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky scandal, Florida implemented one of the toughest reporting laws in the country, making it a felony for school employees who fail to report knowledge, allegations or even suspicions of such instances to a state hotline monitored by the Florida Department of Family Services.
In the Manatee High case, a student alleged that a school employee had improper sexual contact with her. Despite a letter detailing several instances that would have qualified for such reporting, the district claimed it had determined through an internal investigation that no laws had been broken, nor should anything had been reported to the state. Law enforcement only became involved when the story leaked out in the press.
In the Palmetto case, a student is reportedly alleging that a sexual encounter with another student sometime last year was not consensual. The case of the alleged assault itself, which is said to have occured off school grounds, was eventually reported to law enforcement by another district employee and is currently with the state's attorney's office. The district is not commenting on the case while the investigation is open.
Editor's note: this article has been corrected to express that the alleged incident involving the Palmetto High Student was not alleged to have occured on school grounds.
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