Parent worries about safety of children in Franklin schools

Published 1:00 pm Monday, November 18, 2013

FRANKLIN—A parent with two children in the Franklin Public School system asked the school board just how safe are her children.

Josetta Sthole-Hayes, S.P. Morton PTA president, said in light of an alleged sexual battery incident that reportedly happened on a Franklin school bus in August, she doesn’t feel that her children are safe.

“How can we feel safe and walk the halls, knowing that the people on the coaching and teaching staff that were present during this last incident still walk the halls of the high school?” she asked at the Franklin City Public School Board meeting on Nov. 12. “I don’t believe that the administration can believe that this is OK.”

She said that she wouldn’t allow her child, or any child she knows, to be taught by one of the teachers present during the alleged incident.

According to a call to dispatch report by the Northampton County Sheriff’s Office, three or four female students were alleged to have been sexually assaulted on a Franklin school bus while returning home from a volleyball game played at Northampton High School on Aug. 26. Due to jurisdictional issues, the investigation was transferred to the Virginia State Police.

Superintendent Dr. Michelle Belle declined to comment about anyone on the bus who was a Franklin schools employee, citing a long-standing policy to not discuss publicly personnel matters relating to specific employees. Belle said it would be inappropriate for her to comment on student discipline, other than that they had followed the district’s disciplinary procedures.

The Virginia State Police declined to release any additional information since the case is an active criminal investigation.

On Oct. 31, Sgt. Michelle Anaya, spokesperson with the VSP, said one Franklin teen had been arrested, while five others were facing charges in connection with sexual battery charges in connection with the incident involving female victims.

A 17-year old was arrested on Oct. 22 for one count of animate sexual penetration, aggravated sexual battery, attempted animate object sexual penetration and sexual battery, Anaya said at the time. Five additional juvenile females were petitioned through Northampton County Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court, she said. Two of these teenagers have each been charged with one count of animate object sexual penetration, aggravated sexual battery, attempted animate object sexual penetration and sexual battery. The remaining three teens were charged with animate object sexual penetration and sexual battery. All five teens, ranging from ages 14 to 17, were released on a summons.

Sthole-Hayes left the school board with a thought.

“Do you think this would have happened if more chaperones like parents were riding the buses?”