Hamilton High students allegedly assault girl, video attack

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A Hamilton High female student was allegedly sexually assaulted last week in a restroom by at least one male student — a reported attack partially captured on video and circulated to others, law enforcement officials and school district sources said Tuesday.

The report is being investigated by the Los Angeles Police Department.

Officials with the Los Angeles Unified School District declined to discuss specifics of what happened, citing the ongoing investigation and the privacy of students.

“An alleged incident occurred on the campus of Hamilton High School last week potentially involving several students in the boys restroom,” the district said in a statement. “The school administration immediately and proactively began coordinating with the Los Angeles Police Department and Los Angeles Unified School Police to investigate the issue. Our school crisis team was also activated and students were given an opportunity to speak to counselors about their concerns.”

Information about the alleged attack was provided by the LAPD, school district sources with knowledge of the investigation and by a school police union representative.

According to sources familiar with the investigation, a parent of the victim reported the alleged attack to school administration and said a video of it was being shared at the campus.

“I know that the video got to other schools,” said Gil Gamez, president of the Los Angeles School Police Assn.

Gamez said he has not seen the video and cannot describe what is on it, but he understands that school administrators were able to identify the alleged victim from the video. He said he doesn’t know if others can be identified based on the video.

L.A. police Det. Brent Hopkins confirmed that the girl reported last Thursday that she had been sexually assaulted the day before in a boys’ restroom near the basketball gymnasium. He described the girl as an older teen.

“There was one female student and a group of males in the bathroom. It is not clear how many were involved, but one had sexual contact with her,” Hopkins said.

Gamez and another L.A. Unified source with knowledge of the investigation said the girl told administrators she had been pulled into the restroom.

At least part of the incident was recorded by another student.

“We have received a copy of that,” Hopkins said. “The school has been very helpful and is working with us.”

The alleged victim said she knows some of the boys present, according to Hopkins.

Efforts are also being made to get the video off the internet and out of circulation.

Hopkins added that no student has been detained at this point and that before taking action detectives are working to determine how many boys were involved in the alleged assault.

The incident comes on the heels of a video becoming public of a fight outside the school last month involving three students. As fists fly, what appears to be a handgun falls to the ground from the waistband of one of the students. Gamez said he’s not aware of any arrests arising from the incident. His understanding is that a student picked up the fallen weapon and ran away. The school district had no immediate comment.

A school board majority last year approved budget cuts and new policies for dealing with problems on campus in response to calls by student activists to defund the police.

As with other incidents this year, defenders of the school police cited the latest episode as evidence of diminished safety and increased liability resulting from deep cuts to the school police department.

“These brazen and outrageous incidents on school grounds are of deep concern,” said Robert Taylor, president of Los Angeles School Police Management Assn. “Having a police officer on campus not only serves as a deterrent, but also creates a calming environment and provides peace of mind for parents.”

Gamez said that the alleged bathroom assault happened near the former office of the full-time campus safety officer.

He added that there have been 52 calls for service to Hamilton since the start of the school year. These include routine calls for service as a preventive measure to make sure that students were being well supervised and that no incident would erupt.

Under prior practice, each high school had one assigned officer as well as assistance from patrols to help with safe passage of students to and from campus before and after school. Under the new board policy, officers in the smaller force remain off campus and are limited to patrol duties over a wider span of territory. Attrition has reduced the size of the school police force to levels even below what the board authorized.

Student and adult activists have asserted that the presence of police on campus is traumatizing to students — especially Black students — and results in students being treated like suspects in what begins to feel more like a prison than school. In place of officers, schools have hired climate coaches and further developed restorative-justice practices, which rely on counseling and on having students take responsibility for their actions that affect others.

Such methods hold the best promise for nurturing safe campus environments, proponents say.

Taylor and Gamez said the two approaches to safety can work hand in hand. They separately confirmed an incident last week, at a middle school in South L.A., in which a student reported that another student had shown off a gun. Instead of quickly calling school police, the school’s recently hired climate coach grabbed the gun from the student’s waistband.

“The school climate coaches do not even have the training of a regular campus aide,” Gamez said. “Their job is not physical safety. The school should have called police immediately. Police are trained to deal with guns. Counselors are not.”

“The school was very lucky on that outcome,” Taylor said.

He added that a counselor could have worked effectively in partnership with an officer to ensure safety.

The school district had no immediate comment on that incident, citing student privacy.

It is long-standing school district policy to release little or no public information about rule-breaking and crimes on campus — including incidents as varied as vaping in the bathroom, graffiti vandalism, theft and assaults. The district cites broad confidentiality imperatives, including concerns about student privacy and legal liability.On a case-by-case basis, the district will release some information, typically when a situation or case becomes public.

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