A Rogersville Middle School student was charged with a making a false report after claiming she was sexually assaulted during school hours by another student.
The girl’s stepmother, who has legal custody, claims school officials didn’t handle things appropriately.
News Channel 11 decided not to reveal the identities of the alleged victim and her stepmother since the student is a minor.
School and Hawkins County Sheriff’s Department officials agreed to answer questions about their policies but not about the specifics of this student’s case.
The 8th grader said it was during lunchtime on March 27th when a fellow student grabbed her breast in the hallway when she was on the way to the bathroom.
“He said ‘well I don’t care, all I have to do is lie and I’ll get away with it again,'” she said.
She said she first reported the incident to a female staff member, who told her to tell higher level staff.
That’s how the student ended up being questioned, she said by the principal, the vice principal, and the student resource officer.
“I was questioned for almost two hours straight and I insisted on them to call my Dad. They did not call him. They wouldn’t let me call him,” she said.
Her stepmom said she got a call from the principal at 2:45 PM after her student had been questioned.
Hawkins County School’s Title IX Coordinator Lori Allen said parents are not required to be present for questioning but should be given the opportunity. “They are notified as soon as that complaint comes in if it’s a sexual harassment complaint,” said Allen.
Following the initial complaint and investigation, the student was charged with a false report.
“Something like this happened to me in the past. I wouldn’t make it up,” said the student.
“I was just like shocked, completely shocked that they would do this to a kid,” said her stepmother.
“We would never charge a student because that’s not something we do at the school level,” said Allen
The charge came from the student resource officer, an employee of the Hawkins County Sheriff’s Office.
The SRO who charged the student said he’s not authorized to speak with the press.
Chief Deputy Tony Allen explained the standard for charging someone with a false report. “Anything that develops a law enforcement action or a statement that is made to law enforcement where it creates a response and it turns out to be false and the person knows it was false, falls under false report.”
He said claims of sexual harassment are handled by school administrators but SRO’s may intervene to investigate incidents of sexual assault.
Based on the legal definition, this student’s case would be an alleged sexual assault.
He said state law does not require SROs to have parents present during questioning for an investigation.
When asked if the role of SROs could be further clarified in their policy and to parents, Lori Allen said it’s something the school board can discuss.
“They’re actually failing these kids,” said the student’s stepmom. “These kids aren’t going to feel comfortable going to them about anything.”
The student said she would not report another incident to school officials if one were to happen.
Allen said it’s important to school leaders that every student feels they can come to a staff member with cases like this. She said there’s always room for additional staff training on how to sensitively respond.