COLFAX, N.D. – Students at Richland 44 Junior and Senior High School here are being offered outside counseling services in the wake of allegations that bullying or hazing of younger boys by older students in the boys locker room may have included sexual misconduct, a school official said Wednesday, Jan. 24.
Richland 44 School District Superintendent Tim Godfrey said he could not confirm that any students had been suspended in the case, however, “some students have been removed from the school, for safety concerns, for all students in the building, and any student that’s been removed.”
The investigation into allegations of assaults at the school “is active and ongoing,” the Richland County Sheriff’s Office said Wednesday in a news release.
Godfrey said he could not say how many students were involved as assailants or victims, nor how long the assaults have been happening.
“It seems as though it’s maybe been going on for a little while,” Godfrey said, but the timeframe is uncertain. “Everything we have heard is speculation thus far.”
Godfrey said a parent told him on Wednesday, Jan. 17, that she heard there was possible misconduct in the boys locker room “and I should review what’s going on.” The exact nature of the misconduct wasn’t known at the time, Godfrey said.
All of the male athletes were then gathered into the locker room that Thursday and school officials “demanded that they knock off the horseplay in the locker room.”
On Friday, Jan. 19, Godfrey said a group of parents came to the school with more information on the alleged assaults “that we had not known of,” indicating that some of the misconduct was of a sexual nature.
That’s when Godfrey said the decision was made to alert the sheriff’s office because “it had grown beyond the scope of the district to investigate” properly.
Godfrey said counseling is being offered to “anyone who may have been involved in either side of this.”
“We do have our students’ best interest in mind,” he said. “We do need to support their privacy as well as their rights.”