Questions remain in ‘avoidable’ SFMHS bathroom incident

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FORT MYERS, Fla. A statement from a 15-year-old girl who had sex with a group of boys inside a South Fort Myers High School bathroom indicates she was not a willing participant – which has raised questions regarding whether additional crimes were committed and how the investigation was handled.

WINK News will not detail her statement so to not re-victimize her.

Dozens of student athletes – 26 total – went from study hall to the bathroom during the May 2016 incident.

One student was in the bathroom for nearly an hour. Another came and left 5 times.

‘Avoidable’ incident

The girl’s mother, who is not being identified due to being the parent of a possible sexual assault victim, felt the “incident was avoidable” and that her daughter was raped, according to additional documents obtained by WINK News.

The mother said she didn’t request to close the investigation, but an email from a Lee County Sheriff’s Office detective stated the case was closed on July 6 – seven weeks after the incident.

The scandal, which made national news, resulted in only one arrest. William Scott, who was 16 at the time, was charged with cruelty towards a child, allowing a child to engage in a sexual act and possession of obscene material for recording the incident.

Scott entered a juvenile diversion program, but is no longer participating due to non-compliance.

State prosecutors are reviewing a new case against him, but did not say if it was related to the bathroom incident.

Further investigation needed?

Detectives have not presented new evidence related to the case within the past year.

“There’s sufficient evidence to me that criminal activity took place in that bathroom and the question is does the sheriffs office, does the school district, does the state attorney’s office, and the state take this seriously enough to investigate it at the level that it should be investigated,” said Kenneth B. Nunn, associate director of the University of Florida’s Center on Children and Families.

Nunn, also the associate director of the school’s Criminal Justice Center, believes further investigation is needed.

“I’m not sure that there’s a sufficient evaluation of the totality of circumstances in this case that we can say that the sexual assault conduct should not have been charged as well as the charge of the video taping,” he said.

The incident resulted in the removal and near firing of head football coach Anthony Dixon.

Dixon was reassigned to James Stephens International Academy as a paraprofessional.

Five boys were suspended from SFMHS and 12 others were disciplined following the incident.

At least five students were sent to the Alternative Learning Center for less than two months, then were welcomed back to SFMHS in October 2016 by the school principal, who posted a group photo on Twitter.

New group, protocols

School Board Chairwoman Mary Fisher believes the investigation was handled properly.

“I think we did and we continue to deal on a daily basis,” she said. “Safety is a primary focus of the school district.”

District Superintendent Gregory K. Adkins declined comment for this story.

The district established a safety and security task force in response to the bathroom incident, and in a statement late Wednesday afternoon, said their efforts also include “active supervision.”

“As the year has progressed, multiple district teams have visited schools to evaluate and strengthen those plans, upgrade equipment and make adjustments based on the school’s layout and overall needs,” district spokeswoman Lauren Stillwell said in a statement. “We know these protocols are working because of the number of incidents we’re finding.”

Stillwell’s statement did not detail the aforementioned incidents.

Fisher said safety protocols were also revised and school staff have been properly trained.

“We feel like we are making every effort, as we always have done, to keep our schools safe for our students,” she said.

The girl’s mother and the parents of the involved students did not return requests for comment.

The Lee County Sheriff’s Office was unable to provide a statement on the investigation by the time this story aired.

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