TULSA, Okla. (AP) — Officials at a suburban Tulsa high school failed to promptly report that a 16-year-old football player had been sexually assaulted by several of his teammates during an event at the superintendent’s house, and the delay has jeopardized investigators’ ability to recover key evidence in the case, according to an affidavit.
The search warrant was filed Monday in Tulsa district court and accuses Bixby High School administrators of waiting days before reporting the September attack, and says there “may have been some initial effort by one or others to not report the incident at all” — which is a misdemeanor offense under Oklahoma law.
It’s unclear to investigators when officials first learned of the incident. Instead of immediately reporting the incident after becoming aware of it, school principal Terry Adams requested an “off the record” meeting with a Bixby police officer in which Adams asked if his school had to report it to police or to the state’s human services department, according to the affidavit.
The football player told detectives that a teammate shoved a pool stick into his anus through his shorts while three others held him down at the home of Bixby Public Schools Superintendent Kyle Wood. Investigators say a fifth player recorded the assault on a cellphone, and another blocked a door. The boy who said he was attacked told investigators that the player who recorded the assault showed it to friends but said later that he deleted the recording.
Authorities have seized the cellphones of several administrators and football players and ordered more than a month’s worth of emails from the superintendent, principal, athletic director and football coach.
The boy also told investigators he had been assaulted in a similar manner during a team function at the superintendent’s house in 2016.
Wood and Bixby police declined to comment Tuesday and referred questions to the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation, which is leading the investigation. A spokeswoman for that agency did not return a message seeking comment. Adams did not return a phone message seeking comment.
Tulsa County District Attorney Steve Kunzweiler has recused himself from the case, but a spokeswoman for the prosecutor declined to say why.
Matt Ballard, the district attorney in nearby Rogers County, is investigating and will decide if charges will be filed against the players.
“I know members of the community have many questions, and our team hopes to provide answers at the appropriate time and in accordance with both the law and all ethical obligations with regard to any potential victim and suspects,” Ballard said in a statement.
An Associated Press investigation published earlier this year examined sexual violence in school sports as part of a larger look at student-on-student sex assaults. Teammate-on-teammate sexual assaults occurred in all types of sports in public schools, and experts said the more than 70 cases in five years that AP identified were the tip of the iceberg.
Liz Grubb, the coordinator of sexual and relationship violence prevention at York College of Pennsylvania, said there must be a change in the decadeslong culture in which those who learn of a potential sex assault become reluctant to notify authorities.
She said the high-profile victims who have recently come forward to detail how they were assaulted by entertainers, politicians and business leaders are aiding a national discussion on identifying and swiftly reporting such assaults.
“A lot of work has been done,” Grubb said Tuesday. “We’re at an important tipping point, and I’m hoping it’s a tipping point for the better.”
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