DA gives deadline for investigation in Peachtree Ridge assault case

District Attorney Danny Porter

LAWRENCEVILLE — Gwinnett County District Attorney Danny Porter said Friday that he’s given a self-imposed two-week deadline to decide whether he will file charges in an alleged sexual assault incident at Peachtree Ridge High School.

On Friday morning, Porter met with the victim’s stepfather and attorneys representing the family. Porter said they suggested some avenues to follow up and additional interviews to consider. Adele Kimmel, an attorney representing the girl through Public Justice, a Washington law firm that specializes in civil rights case, declined to comment on the meeting at the Gwinnett Justice and Administration Center. She said the investigation continues.

“At this point, we’re trying to decide if we need to do some follow-up interviews with the victim or whether that would not be a good thing,” Porter said.

The investigation stems from an incident between the victim and a classmate at the school in February, 2015. Both students were disciplined by the school district. Separate from Porter’s investigation is a pending complaint with the U.S. Education Department’s Office of Civil Rights, which is ongoing.

The investigation was discussed Thursday night at the regular monthly Gwinnett Board of Education meeting where a few people showed up for a pre-meeting rally against the the school district’s handling of the incident. Two former Peachtree Ridge students spoke to the School Board and criticized its handling of the case.

Sarah Schor, a Georgia Gwinnett College student who said she graduated from Peachtree Ridge in 2014, said the investigation was mishandled.

“She should have been treated with much more care,” Schor said. “How the teachers handled that could’ve made it worse.”

Sarah Welch, another former Peachtree Ridge student who now attends the University of Georgia, said the School Board always held students to a standard of excellence, and she challenged the Board members to do the same.

“This standard of excellence was so prominent in everything we did,” she said. “The standard of excellence becomes a joke if this is how you treat students you hold so highly. Hold yourselves to the same standard of excellence you push upon us and introduce sensitivity training to your high schools.”

Welch also vowed to return to every School Board meeting until she’s satisfied that sensitivity training is introduced in high schools.

School Board Chairman Dr. Robert McClure responded to the former students.

“I have to be honest with you, there are some things you said I don’t agree with,” he said. “But I certainly appreciate your passion and right to say them. … If you have any personal evidence or information to the incident, not that you’ve read in the paper or something else, feel free, in fact we’d love to have it if there’s something that you know of that we don’t know about. But I would encouarge you to do what the Board of Education does, as much as you possibly can, and that’s to hear both sides of the story before we make a decision on anything.”

School disrict officials on Thursday released a statement that described what they called a thorough investigation that led to a decision based on a “preponderance of the evidence.” It also said there are two Title IX coordinators in every school, and outlined a series of curriulum elements that are in place around the issue.

Kimmel disputed that all of those policies and procedures were in place at the time of the incident.

Gwinnett Daily Post news reporter.

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