Neb. school officials avoid charges in abuse case

Associated Press

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) - Three western Nebraska school officials accused of failing to report allegations that high school wrestlers sexually assaulted a young teammate at a summer wrestling camp will not face charges, an attorney for two of the officials said Friday.

Bob Lindemeier, a North Platte attorney who represents Maxwell Public Schools Superintendent Danny Twarling and high school principal Aubrey Boucher, said that the school board and Lincoln County Attorney Rebecca Harling agreed Monday that the officials wouldn't be charged and that district staff would undergo training to better understand the laws regarding student abuse and neglect.

Twarling, Boucher and wrestling coach Ryan Jones were cited by the Nebraska State Patrol in September on suspicion of failure to report child abuse or neglect, a misdemeanor.

None of the teens who were alleged to have taken part in the assault have been charged. Nebraska State Patrol investigators have turned over their findings about the alleged abuse at the Kearney wrestling camp to the Buffalo County prosecutor, who will determine whether charges should be filed, patrol spokeswoman Deb Collins said.

Buffalo County Attorney Shawn Eatherton did not immediately respond to a phone message Friday enquiring whether he plans to bring charges in the case.

Neither the alleged victim nor his parents are named in court documents, and authorities did not respond to requests for their identities to give them an opportunity to react to the agreement between prosecutors and school administrators. There was no answer at Maxwell Public Schools on Friday afternoon.

Patrol investigators have said the three school officials were told that members of the wrestling team held down a team member and sodomized him with a bottle while at camp in the summer of 2011. An investigator said the mother of a friend of the alleged victim said she asked the boy whether he had reported the incident to his coach, and the boy said he had but that the coach told him, "What happens in wrestling, stays in wrestling." The teen also told a State Patrol investigator that Boucher called him a liar and "a rumor spreader" after learning of the reported assault.

School officials told investigators that they conducted their own investigation and determined that the accusations were unfounded.

State law requires teachers, administrators, medical professionals and others in positions of authority to report cases of suspected child abuse or neglect to law enforcement.

"In retrospect, perhaps the school should have forwarded all information and allegations to law enforcement and/or the Department of Health and Human Services," Lindemeier and Harling said in a joint written statement. "In the future, the school is committed to revising necessary policies and/or procedures to aid school officials in understanding when and where to report."

The school's staff will undergo training by the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services and the Lincoln County Attorney's Office, among other entities. The school board also will implement more strict policies regarding the reporting of suspected student abuse or neglect, the statement said.

"It's really an overall effort to educate the teachers and administrators and other staff members about the reporting requirements so people understand what needs to be done," Lindemeier said Friday.

Lindemeier said he wasn't aware of any lawsuits that may have been filed about the alleged attack, and he said none of the students involved have transferred to other schools. One student graduated.

"It's our hope that this is the end of it," Lindemeier said. "Maxwell is a small community, and it's really been upset by what's been going on. There's been some division, and so our hope is that we can get people back to ... supporting the school and its staff and get this behind everyone."

____

Follow Margery Beck at https://twitter.com/Margery3


(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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