UPDATE, Sept. 12: The story has been changed to reflect the language in the incident report after discussion among contributing editors and to link to previous Shakerite coverage of sexual assault.
A Shaker Heights High School student is in custody today in connection with the alleged rape of a female student at the high school Sept. 10.
In a letter to parents, sent the afternoon of Sept. 11, Principal Michael Griffith stated the incident involved “an allegation of assault.” The letter did not state explicitly that the incident involved alleged rape.
However, a Shaker Heights Police Department incident report obtained by The Shakerite Sept. 11 confirms the incident as alleged rape.
Director of Communication Peggy Caldwell explained that when the letter was composed, district officials understood the charge to be assault.
Caldwell said she had not seen a copy of the police report, but when The Shakerite obtained a copy and asked for comment, she said, “At the time we spoke to the chief this morning and at the time we put together the information, the information we had was assault,” Caldwell said. “And later in the day, at the request of the prosecutor and the investigating officer, it was changed and [Police Chief Scott Lee] said that was common. . . We were not aware it had been changed.”
Superintendent Gregory C. Hutchings said this “may be one of the most dramatic times” in the victim’s life and that students should remain respectful of that.
Caldwell confirmed the victim as female and reiterated Hutchings’ thoughts. “We have a student that’s been wronged, we believe and the police believe,” Caldwell said. “She needs protection. Understanding and protection. Not gossip.”
“The victim was transported to a local hospital, treated and released,” Griffith wrote in a message to parents. “We have no reason to believe there is a threat to the safety of students and staff at this time.”
The Shakerite previously investigated sexual assault cases in the high school in Volume 82, Issue 1. Two stories were published, identifying that in the past five years, three incidents of sexual assault in the high school had been reported to the Shaker Heights police.
According to Caldwell, the incident occurred around 11:30 a.m., during fourth period on the Tuesday schedule. According to Griffith, it seems to be “an isolated incident.”
Griffith wrote, “As soon as a student told an adult, we called the police in to investigate.”
Later that day, around 3:10 p.m., Griffith called an impromptu faculty meeting via the PA system.
During the meeting, Griffith read a short statement and instructed teachers to keep the contents of the statement confidential.
At 1:50 p.m. on Sept. 11, Griffith announced preliminary details of the alleged assault to the student body without classifying the type of assault. He restated these details in his letter to parents.
“We do not yet have all the facts. Both the high school administration and the Shaker Heights police are conducting a thorough investigation,” Griffith wrote.
“We ask students, staff, and community members to refrain from speculation and gossip that can only impede the investigation and take our focus away from teaching and learning,” Griffith wrote.
In his announcement, Griffith specifically discouraged speculation over social media.
Cleveland.com and Channel 19 Action News published stories the evening of Sept. 11 that referred to the incident as an assault. Channel 3 News aired a brief story about the alleged rape during its 11 p.m. newscast.
Griffith concluded his announcement by encouraging students, “We are all here to keep each other safe and to keep our school safe.”
Campus and City Editors John Vodrey and Abby White contributed reporting for this story.