STEUBENVILLE - The superintendent of the Steubenville City School District said Thursday he feels empathy for a 16-year-old Weirton female who was the victim of an alleged rape in August.
"Our hearts go out to the young victim. We sincerely hope she is getting the help she needs to heal from this ordeal," Mike McVey said in a prepared statement issued prior to a series of news media interviews.
"We feel empathy for the young lady and her family," he added during an interview.
McVey said he has not tried to contact the female victim and declined to say if the family has contacted his office.
During the nearly 30-minute interview, McVey said the school district is planning educational programs.
"We are expanding the education programs in our curriculum to further raise awareness of sexual harassment, bullying, date rape and substance abuse. We will line up additional training sessions for our faculty and staff and will schedule age-appropriate sessions for our students and their parents, including targeted sessions for all student athletes," McVey declared.
According to McVey, the school district followed proper protocol when officials learned of an alleged rape last August that may have involved Steubenville High School students.
"We have fully cooperated with the Steubenville Police and will continue to fully cooperate with all legal authorities. Since we first heard allegations of a sexual assault involving some of our students, we began immediate dialog with the law enforcement authorities," McVey said.
It was the first time McVey publicly discussed the alleged rape case since it was initially reported in August.
Two high school students were arrested and charged with the rape of a 16-year-old Weirton female. The trial of Ma'lik Richmond, 16, of Steubenville and Trent Mays, 16, of Bloomingdale is scheduled to begin Feb. 13 in Jefferson County Juvenile Court. Thomas Lipps, a visiting judge, will hear the case.
Three high school students, Mark Cole, Anthony Craig and Evan Westlake, who testified during a probable cause hearing in Jefferson County Juvenile Court, were suspended in October by the school district from participating in extracurricular activities.
McVey declined to discuss the three students, citing federal student confidentiality laws.
"We are encouraging every student with information about the alleged crimes to step forward and contact the police. We were troubled when we learned that the police were having a difficult time obtaining cooperation from witnesses of that night's events. By remaining silent, witnesses thwart the work of investigators which may ultimately prevent justice from being served," continued McVey.
McVey also said the school district has increased security measures at all city schools.
"A false threat directed at the middle school this week resulted in a districtwide school lockdown acted out of an abundance of caution. The safety of every student is our highest priority. All schools will have a security officer on duty during school hours and at extracurricular activities," said McVey.
"Our goal is to keep every kid safe in our schools and to provide a quality education," McVey added.
The city school board approved the employment of Jefferson Security on an emergency basis during a board meeting Wednesday night to provide security at city schools following a shooting threat posted on Facebook Tuesday.
The lockdown was initiated shortly after 8:30 a.m. Tuesday after City Police received a telephone call from the mother of a city school student.
According to the police report, the student had stayed home sick Tuesday and "observed a threat on his Facebook page that was originally a Tweet from KnightSec that stated the kids who have not been charged in the rape case were to come to a certain location or 'I am going to start killing people.' The juvenile further stated that he tried to access the Tweet again, but it had disappeared."
The police searched all city school buildings and determined the threat was not credible, and the lockdown was lifted shortly before 10 a.m.
Steubenville Police Chief Bill McCafferty said Wednesday a multi-agency investigation into the threat is ongoing.
"We also plan to expand our curriculum in our schools dealing with the events now under investigation. We are also planning to expand counseling for our students. And we will continue to provide more information and more services," McVey said.
"And we plan to do a few age-appropriate public forums for our students and their parents as well as the community," added McVey.
The school board Wednesday night approved the hiring of Sharon Travis of Administrative Counseling Services.
McVey said Travis will provide counseling in the schools "as needed" and will coordinate her efforts with the community.
"It's a trying time for us and our school board's main focus is doing what is best for the kids. The past few months have been very difficult for all of us in the Steubenville City Schools. As a school district our goal is to graduate students who are well educated, compassionate and caring who create greater understanding and good will within the community. The past few months have been very difficult, but as educators we know it is our responsibility to make sure all of us learn from this experience," stated McVey.