Vigil calls for support amid Southwest school rape allegations - KCTV5

Vigil calls for support amid Southwest school rape allegations

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A pastor at a Kansas City church says students and teachers at Southwest Early College Campus need love and support now more than ever.

Community members gathered Saturday night at Wornall Road Baptist Church to pray for a 14-year-old girl who says she was raped by one of her classmates repeatedly inside the school while another classmate acted as the lookout.

Six district employees are on leave after the arrest of two students for rape and sodomy.

District officials would not identify the suspended employees or their positions at the school, previously known as Southwest High School, which is an older single-building campus in a middle-class neighborhood on the city's south side. More than half of the roughly 600 middle and high school students there are in college prep courses.

The girl making the latest allegations said she was raped about the same time of day and out of view of security cameras, according to the police report. Her mother told police the girl is autistic and "does not always fully comprehend and communicate the same as other children of the same age," the report said.

"This is not an issue of not having enough security cameras. This is not an issue of having enough people in the halls. This is an issue of having a broken city, and if people of faith don't come along and take responsibility for that, we have a major problem," Clifton said.

Clifton asked his congregation to pray for teachers and students at the school.

The school's chronic problems with violence and assaults trouble him, but the recent reported rape that happened on school property stands apart as an especially disturbing incident.

In an earlier incident, two boys, ages 14 and 15, were charged as juveniles after a 17-year-old girl told police she was dragged through a doorway and up a flight of stairs to a room where she was raped.

"It really speaks, not just to a crime of opportunity, but something much deeper and much more troubling," Clifton said.

The district responded by improving security measures at the school, including starting weekly safety reviews, upgrading the security camera system, reviewing doors and locks, restricting access to isolated building areas and reinforcing adult supervision of students when they are not in classes.

Security measures were in place during the time period when the latest incident would have occurred, district spokesman Ray Weikal said. He said Superintendent Stephen Green thought he had "staff lined up ... to make sure an incident like that wouldn't happen again."

"That clearly turned out not to be the case," Weikal said. "What I can tell you is that this is by and large a personnel issue. There was a failure on a personnel level."

"This is not going to be a case where people get slapped on the wrist because they have protection," he added later. "We're not going to let that happen."

Clifton is asking a grieving community to overcome tragedy and address larger problems in schools, neighborhoods and cities.

"You have to turn that sorrow and that grief into action. And so the answer is not to quit or give up or to walk away. The answer is to work harder and to never quit and see God do something in our community," Clifton said.

A 14-year-old boy and a 13-year-old girl were charged with one count of rape and one count of sodomy. They were taken into custody on Tuesday and are now in the custody of juvenile authorities.

The school has now issued a zero tolerance policy and will hold an assembly to address high school students Monday morning.

Copyright 2014 KCTV (Meredith Corp.)  All rights reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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