I-Team: Durham police end investigation of alleged school bus sex assault

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Several emails obtained by ABC11 reveal Durham Public Schools leaders may have had doubts about an alleged sex assault on a school bus in September.

The Durham Police Department said Wednesday it has completed its investigation of an alleged sex assault on a school bus in September and determined it was a case of bullying - and not a sex assault. No charges will be filed.

Meanwhile, several emails obtained by ABC11 reveal Durham Public Schools leaders may have had doubts about the case early on. They also suggest some school administrators were not updated on the investigation until after the alleged incident was reported by the news media.

At least three mothers allege their children were assaulted on a bus for W.G. Pearson Elementary School in Durham.

One mother says older children on the bus forced her 5-year-old son to engage in oral sex with another small child. The second mother alleges her child was part of that incident. A third mother claims her child endured an assault that was non-sexual in nature around the same time.

A bus monitor has since been assigned to the bus where the alleged incident occurred on Sept. 11.

School officials say the mother of the 5-year-old boy initially filed her report with police the same day and then spoke to administrators at W.G. Pearson Elementary. A police report obtained by ABC11 is dated Sept. 12.

However, internal emails provided by Durham Public Schools are dated several days after the alleged assault.

In a message dated Sept. 22, a staffer wrote that they had interviewed the five children allegedly involved along with students sitting in front and behind them on the bus.

Those students provided school investigators with the most details, according to the emails.

The students in question were later required to sit closer to the bus driver.

The school's principal sent an email to Area Superintendent John McCain on the same day identifying unanswered questions in her initial investigation.

"We have been investigating this incident from the moment it came to our attention," wrote Principal LaManda Pryor. "But we cannot identify if the alleged incident actually happened."

Pryor added in her message that they were also unable to identify the "bigger" student who was the alleged culprit. She also asked for additional guidance on what to do next.

While there was some doubt, the principal also had her suspicions.

"I do believe something inappropriate was asked of one of the kindergarten students to do to the other kindergarten students," she wrote. "But we cannot find any evidence that the two actually carried it out."

The district also received a message from a concerned parent criticizing it for failing to notify the school community before the news media.

"I am very disappointed in how this was handled," wrote one parent in an email dated Sept. 24.

The email exchanges show the school system immediately started to craft an electronic response specifically for W.G. Pearson Elementary School parents.

At least two of the mothers of the alleged victims have retained an attorney.

The school system is implementing security changes on its buses, including installing more cameras.

"We are awaiting a full report from the Durham Police Department, but it is our understanding that they have found no evidence of assault or other criminal activity. We have been concerned for our students, and while we are relieved that criminal charges appear not to be warranted, we are wrapping up our own school-based investigation to determine what additional actions or supports need to be in place for the students involved, said Superintendent Bert L'Homme in a statement Wednesday.

Meanwhile an attorney for the family of the 5-year-old also issued a statement.

"The families of the children involved in this disturbing incident remain deeply concerned. While we appreciate the efforts of the Durham Police Department, the investigation being conducted by the Law Offices of James Scott Farrin is ongoing," said Marie Lang.

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