Security Chain of Command Breaks Down in Case of Rape of Boy at School

Someone could lose his job for failing to police isolated areas of a West Kensington middle school this week, allowing an 11-year-old boy to allegedly chase down a 12-year-old and rape him in a school fire tower.

School district CEO Paul Vallas said it appeared there had been a "dereliction of duty" by adult supervisors that allowed the assault to occur Tuesday morning at the John B. Stetson School at B Street and Allegheny Avenue. The school, run by Edison Schools, has 15 support staff, including five security personnel, Vallas said.

The 12-year-old told police the assault occurred after he obtained a hall pass at 10:45 a.m. Tuesday to use the men's room on the fourth floor. Richard Barth, vice president of Edison Schools in Philadelphia, said a student must obtain a key from an adult supervisor to use the bathroom.

Police said the 12-year-old told them he was in the bathroom when the assailant entered. The two boys, both sixth graders, got into a fight over a ball, then the attacker grabbed the 12-year-old by the neck, choking and threatening him.

The 12-year-old was able to leave the bathroom but said the other boy followed, chasing him into a third floor fire tower stairway, where he was forced to lower his pants and was raped. He was then warned not to tell anybody but he went to a teacher. He was treated at St. Christopher's Hospital for Children.

"If there is a clear dereliction of duty, then we expect people to resign or be fired," Vallas said about the attack.

Vallas called Stetson "a challenging middle school. There should be no circumstances in which children can go anywhere in that school for any length of time unobserved," Vallas said.

He said the alleged attacker had been yanked from Stetson and enrolled at an alternative school. Vallas said the victim would be moved to a different school. Police from the special victims unit said the perpetrator was sent to the Youth Study Center.

"When you've been involved in public service as long as I have you like to think that nothing can shock you, " Vallas said, "but it's still a shocker.

"It makes you wonder what that child the attacker has seen, heard, experienced."

Barth said Edison was working with the school district to see where the system broke down but said school personnel reported the rape to police instantly. "If there are lapses, or people not doing their job, people will be held accountable," he said.