published Saturday, May 12th, 2012

Teen says she was raped at East Ridge Middle School

ABOUT EAST RIDGE MIDDLE

• Grades: 6-8

• Students: About 650; 52 percent male; 47 percent female

• Racial makeup: White - 57 percent; black - 26 percent; Hispanic - 13 percent; Asian - 3 percent

• Economically disadvantaged: 90 percent

Source: 2011 Tennessee Report Card

East Ridge Middle School officials insist their school is a safe environment for children despite a 13-year-old girl's allegations that she was raped in a bathroom.

"I would be willing Monday morning for my daughters to attend this school," Principal Steven Robinson said Friday.

The girl told East Ridge police investigators she was assaulted by a male teen she didn't recognize in the bathroom between noon and 12:30 p.m. Thursday, East Ridge Police Department spokesman Officer Erik Hopkins said.

The girl initially did not tell school staff or police about the event. Police were not called until a guardian took the girl to Parkridge East Hospital that evening, Hopkins said.

The girl was then taken to the Rape Crisis Center for further evaluation and medical oversight, Hopkins said. Child Protective Services also was notified.

The incident has been reported as an attack, and police are investigating it as such, Hopkins said.

As of Friday, police still were trying to identify the suspect, described by the victim as a light-skinned black male with close-cut hair who was wearing a dark-blue shirt and blue jeans. It is unclear whether the alleged assailant is a student at the school.

"The girl said she did not know who he was," Hopkins said.

Investigators are working with East Ridge school staff to determine how students were moving through the school throughout the day.

School staff were notified of the allegation in an after-school meeting Friday. While some parents called in during the day with questions, Robinson said he didn't believe most students were aware of the situation during school Friday.

He said police instructed him not to comment on the case, but he said the report doesn't make him question the safety of the school.

The school system's central office had a similar take.

Steve Holmes, director of middle schools for the Hamilton County Department of Education, said administrators were aware of the situation at East Ridge Middle but were not worried for the safety of students.

"I have been in that school many times this year, and the students are, in my opinion, very safe," he said.

Robinson said state law requires that visitors enter schools through the front door and check in at the front office. Signs on East Ridge Middle's campus make that clear, he said.

Many doors are locked throughout the day, though some remain unlocked for students who must come in and out of the building, Robinson said.

about Kevin Hardy...

Kevin rejoined the Times Free Press in August 2011 as the Southeast Tennessee K-12 education reporter. He worked as an intern in 2009, covering the communities of Signal Mountain, Red Bank, Collegedale and Lookout Mountain, Tenn. A native Kansan, Kevin graduated with bachelor's degrees in journalism and sociology from the University of Kansas. After graduating, he worked as an education reporter in Hutchinson, Kan., for a year before coming back to Chattanooga. Honors include a ...

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