Rumored S.C. High School Student Assaults Prove False

Nothing flies faster than a rumor in high school. It becomes the talk of the school in a day and is usually replaced soon after by the Next Big Thing. When a rumor involves allegations of assault and sexual threats, however, it becomes more than just innocent gossip: it can have a lasting effect on the students involved.

Unfortunately, South Carolina's Clover High School in York County evidenced this phenomenon this fall, when ten students were suspended, and three expelled, in an incident that was first investigated as "assault offenses" before a police determined the incidents were merely locker room horseplay.

The investigation began after a teacher overheard older students discussing three separate incidents of hazing. It was rumored that three different victims, two of whom were only 14 and 15 years old, suffered assault and threats of sexual assault with a broomstick at the hands of older students. The rumor circulated wildly and was picked up by nearby newspapers and local news stations.

School officials did not disclose what acts actually did occur that qualified as "horseplay," but the rumor of sexual assault that captured the attention of the entire school - and much of the community - did not occur.

Court of Public Opinion

From local TV to national newspapers and online gossip websites, it seems at the first hint of scandal or wrongdoing media coverage becomes intensive. While this is a result of our up-to-the-minute Facebook and Twitter culture (Facebook posts popped up soon after the rumor began) sometimes public scrutiny can be unfairly harmful to an individual accused of a crime who has yet to be tried by a jury of peers.

Presumption of Innocence

Fortunately, America's legal system takes a more measured approach. "Innocent until proven guilty" is a quote known by most Americans and taken seriously by the justice system. It can be human nature to assume the worst when confronted with shocking allegations of sex offenses or felony charges, and public perception of the role of criminal defense attorneys can be low. Images of sleazy attorneys defending career criminals and murderers occur nightly on TV. However, everyday criminal defense lawyers protect the constitutional right all of us have to defend ourselves in court.

The allegations of assault in the Clover High School incident were serious and deserved to be looked into by authorities. Fortunately, in this case truth overcame rumor and no charges were filed against any student.

If you are the subject of a criminal investigation or have been charged with a crime, speak to a lawyer experienced with defending people against charges for crimes they did not commit.