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Teen arrested year after sexual assault at Atlantic City High School

A 16-year-old student was arrested last week in the sexual assault of a fellow student inside Atlantic City High School almost a year ago.

The victim came to school officials about the assault Jan. 27, police said Friday.

An investigation that included witness statements and video surveillance was conducted by School Resource Officer Deborah Gilmore, Sgt. Paul Aristizabal said. The suspect was identified as a 16-year-old fellow student.

The boy was arrested last week in Galloway Township, where sources confirmed to BreakingAC that he was attending the alternative school, Seashore Leadership Academy.

A call to the school Friday afternoon was not returned.

Plans to open the school there were met with concerns by Galloway Township residents during a in 2021 during a Township Committee meeting.

The next day, Mayor Marty held a news conference calling those who questioned the school racists.

At the time, then-Galloway Township Police Chief Donna Higbee — who has since retired — said she had not been notified nor given time to prepare for the influx of troubled students.

Holding a stack of crime reports, she said students accounted for 71 police reports during the last 18 months the high school was housed in Mays Landing’s Atlantic County Institute of Technology.

“If I read them to you, you would actually fall out of the pews right now,” she said. “We’re talking assaults, aggravated assaults, sexual assaults, terroristic threats, weapons, drug possession… things being thrown from school buses, seat belts being cut out of school buses and thrown at windshields on the way to school. I could go on and on but I’d rather not.”

Atlantic City Schools Superintendent Dr. La’Quetta Small first confirmed the arrest to BreakingAC on Friday.

“There were allegations of sexual assault at Atlantic City High School,” she said in a written statement. “The allegations were immediately reported to the proper agencies and law enforcement.”

She added that the student was recently arrested and charged, but gave no details about the assault or the exact charges.

Small said she had no further comment.

The attack was not recent, but that should not lead people to “speculate that it wasn’t reported until now,” Police Chief James Sarkos said. “It’s just when the investigation was concluded.”

The boy is in the Harborfields Juvenile Detention Center on charges of sexual assault and endangering the welfare of a child.

While the teen is charged in one assault, an Instagram purported to be run by one or more teachers has made public allegations about “multiple rapes” they claim were covered up by the district.

High School Principal Constance Days Chapman held a staff meeting at the high school Friday, a source confirmed to BreakingAC.

“She wanted to let the staff know that the safety of our students is paramount,” the source said. “Once it is reported it goes to the (Division of Child Protection and Permanency) and is out of their hands.”

Teachers were told to be vigilant at their posts and not read books and assign passes so they know where students are at all times.

Atlantic City Board of Education President Shay Steele did not respond to BreakingAC.

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