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Police call sexual assault claims at Arkansas middle school 'unsubstantiated'

Arkansas State Police says it cannot release info on its investigation because minors are involved.

LAMAR, Arkansas — An attorney representing three Lamar students who claim they were sexually assaulted in the middle school locker room is responding to the school district's statement that state police found the allegations unsubstantiated.

We first reported the sexual assault allegations at Lamar Middle School and a Title IX report by the school district in July, which found three students responsible for sexual assault and harassment.

During that time, Arkansas State Police began its own investigation. According to a statement from Lamar Schools Superintendent Jay Holland, that investigation is complete and state police found the claims to be unsubstantiated.

Holland pointed out "specific procedures and timeframes that must be followed in conducting" a Title IX investigation within the school district, and that once that process was completed, the Arkansas State Police's Crimes Against Children Division hadn't completed their investigation.

The statement goes on to say that the state police investigation was not finished until Aug. 12, over a month after the school's Title IX investigation was completed.

"The school takes any allegations of sexual abuse very seriously, which is why the school conducted an independent investigation by a third party and reviewed all investigative findings submitted by the Crimes Against Children Division of the Arkansas State Police," the school district's statement said.

RELATED: Lamar students found 'responsible' for sexual assault after Title IX investigation

"We understand that the community was frustrated with the time it took to complete this investigation and the school’s inability to speak on these confidential matters, but please know that the school was doing its best to protect all students involved in this matter."

In an audio recording from March, Title IX records released by the school show that students say the N-word multiple times, several screams are heard, and someone shouts “no!” While another student shouts “put him in the stall.” Later saying, "I raped [John Doe].” 

In the Title IX complaint filed on March 11, 2022, four students were accused of a sexual assault on March 8. According to the district investigator's findings, three of the four students accused were found "responsible" for the assault after their voices were identified in the video recording of the reported harassment.

"They have an audio tape which clearly shows the events that happened,” said the attorney for the victims, Joey McCutchen.

“That should have been more than enough to do a conviction," said Denise DeWinter, a grandmother of Lamar Students. "And way more than a ten-day [suspension.]”

Title IX investigators suggested a 10-day suspension, a no-contact order, and counseling when they released their findings in July. According to Holland, "all parties" appealed.

DeWinter says she's not only worried for her grandchildren but children across Arkansas. “State Police, this is kind of setting an example for all schools in Arkansas," she said.

5NEWS reached out to Arkansas State Police about its findings. However, an ASP spokesperson said the agency cannot release information about this case because minors are involved.

As for McCutchen and his clients, they are now looking to fight back.

“It is the job of school districts and the Arkansas State Police to protect our children," McCutchen said in a press release issued Thursday. "We do not believe Lamar students, with the exception of the perpetrators, have been protected in the entire process. Parents of the victims are not content with school officials and the Arkansas State Police stating this matter has concluded. Parents of the victims intend to pursue this matter to the legislature and governor if necessary,” McCutchen said in a statement released on Aug. 18.

Wednesday night, Jacquelyn Harrison, an attorney representing Lamar Schools sent 5NEWS this statement regarding the students' punishment.

“The school cannot disclose disciplinary sanctions of students to anyone other than their parents, so I cannot disclose what the punishments are and/or when they begin. You would have to get that information from the parents of those students as that is protected information under FERPA and Title IX.”

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