Mercury News story questions handling of ECCL sexual assault reports

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Mercury News investigative reporter Matthias Gafni is probing the EUSD and EPD for possible mishandling of our state’s mandated reporting laws in the wake of two alleged sexual assaults at the ECCL. The story provides varying points of view of EUSD officials including Superintendent John Rubio and the Emeryville Police Department Chief Jennifer Tejada and raises questions if the proper reporting protocols were followed.

The controversy stems from a May 1st incident involving alleged “lewd or lascivious acts” between a 11 & 13-year-old and a subsequent alleged sexual assault between a 15-year-old and a 17-year-old a week later. The May 1st incident was dismissed but charges are pending for the 17-year-old sexual assault suspect in juvenile court.

The school district’s legal representative defended the accusations citing the circumstances and judgement of the school administrator. The Alameda County District Attorney’s Office has thus far declined to file charges citing insufficient evidence.

[Update 1:] The Mercury story initially noted it did not receive comment from Dr. Rubio, but has been updated with an official response from the District that he forwarded:

“The Emery Unified School District staff often make reports to law enforcement and Child Protective Services (CPS) whenever we have a reasonable suspicion of a reportable incident.

The two incidents you are referencing were not situations where reporting was mandatory, as confirmed by our legal counsel, as there was no reasonable suspicion by staff regarding either incident, in part due to the consensual nature and age of the students for one of the incidents”

[Update 2:] Dr. Rubio also provided this letter that is being sent to parents, employees, the school board, city staff, and some community members:

We have really great students in our schools, and sometimes even our best students make poor choices.

When that happens, we speak to their parents, and we counsel the students to learn from their mistakes.

Sometimes, this also means that we ask a student to find a different school if they cannot improve their behavior.

A few months ago, we had two incidents where students made some bad choices, but where we were not legally required to file any type of report.

While we always file reports with some agencies when it is required by law, we don’t file reports when it is not mandated by law.

I want to assure all of our parents that we will continue to work hard to keep all of our students safe, to follow the law as required, and I remain committed to supporting our great veteran teachers, and to finding the best staff and new teachers every year when we have changes.

Our district keeps improving every year, and I am proud to be part of the team here who is making that happen.
I look forward to seeing you all soon.

Thank you to all the parents who came this morning to meet the new principals at the school backpack giveaway.

I will send another email in the next couple days to introduce our new middle school and new elementary principals to all of you.

Thank you,

Dr. John Rubio
Emery Unified School District

The story cautions that reporting lapses have led to millions of dollars in settlements for victims throughout the Bay Area, but few mandated reporting incidents result in charges or convictions.

The audio file from the Emeryville Public Safety meeting that the article references is available in the city website archives.

Gafni was among a team of East Bay Times reporters recently awarded the Pulitzer Prize for their coverage of the Ghost Ship Warehouse Fire.

Did Emeryville school officials report sexual assault allegations as required by law?

By Matthias Gafni

EMERYVILLE – In May, officials at the Emeryville Center of Community Life school learned of two possible sexual assaults involving juveniles on campus but did not alert police officials, prompting police to allege that the district had violated the state’s mandated reporting laws.

But the Emeryville police chief later backpedaled on her claim that the district broke the law, and the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office decided there was insufficient evidence to file charges.

Read More on The Mercury News →

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Rob Arias

is a third generation Californian and East Bay native who lived in Emeryville from 2003 to 2021. Rob founded The E'ville Eye in 2011 after being robbed at gunpoint and lamenting the lack of local news coverage. Rob's "day job" is as a creative professional.

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