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La Follette High School

A 16-year-old male student was arrested Wednesday for allegedly repeatedly groping a female student inside La Follette High School on several occasions throughout February, Madison police said.

A 16-year-old La Follette High School student was arrested Wednesday for allegedly groping a 15-year-old girl multiple times in the school.

The boy was charged Thursday in a delinquency petition with repeated sexual assault of a child, which is a felony, said John Bauman, Dane County Juvenile Court administrator. The boy appeared in court Thursday and was sent home under a non-secure custody order, Bauman said.

Madison police said the boy, who is not being named because he is a juvenile, was arrested Wednesday morning at the school, 702 Pflaum Road, by a police detective.

“The girl told police she was repeatedly and forcefully groped over the course of a couple of weeks this past February,” said police spokesman Joel DeSpain.

The incidents allegedly took place in several areas of the school.

“The victim suffered pain and soreness following a couple of the incidents,” DeSpain said. “She became fearful of attending classes, and did not attend at times.”

District spokeswoman Liz Merfeld said the female student initially reported “inappropriate touching” by another student on Feb. 26 to school staff, and police were informed.

District staff developed a safety plan and supports for the girl, Merfeld said. The district also initiated a school disciplinary investigation into the allegations, the consequences of which may need to be adjusted based on the police investigation, she said.

Bauman said the boy is under an order to have no contact with the girl.

Merfeld said a detective investigated the allegations throughout March and April.

The arrest follows a reported sexual assault two weeks ago at East High School. Two 15-year-old boys allegedly raped a female student, also 15, inside a school bathroom after classes ended April 10. Their cases remain pending in juvenile court.

Dozens of East High staffers sent a letter to district officials last week criticizing comments made by the district’s head of security and what they perceived as a lack of response on the administration’s part to the alleged sexual assault.

“Sadly, this is not an isolated incident but rather an example of deep structural issues within our schools that continually victimize women, queer and trans people,” said the letter, which was sent before the earlier La Follette incident was made public.

A couple of hours after the staffers’ letter was shared last Friday, Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham sent her own letter to families and employees outlining efforts the district is taking to prevent sexual violence, such as making sure students learn about consent and sexual conduct in age-appropriate ways.

“The issue of sexual violence has been weighing heavily on my mind and heart,” Cheatham said in the letter. “Rape culture, which allows sexual violence to be normalized, minimized or excused, has no place in or outside of our schools, here or anywhere.”

State Journal reporters Bill Novak and Ed Treleven contributed to this report.

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