St. Paul police are investigating a report that a young girl was coerced into performing a sexual act on a classmate who later sent pictures of the alleged incident to a friend.
St. Thomas More Catholic School is supposed to be a bully-free zone where students from kindergartners to eighth graders are taught to treat each other with dignity and respect, but the allegations found in a search warrant are so staggering, the principal says the school is also conducting its own investigation.
Police began their probe after an 8th grade student told a mandated reporter at the school that a classmate who had been bullying her since the beginning of the year told her he would be nice to her if she performed oral sex on him. The student also said the boy took a picture of her in the act and then sent it to a friend via text message.
A local advocate for victims of sexual violence told FOX 9 News cases like this are more common than one might think, even among children as young as those in the eighth grade.
"We work with kids 12 and older, but I've heard of cases like this happening in grade schools," said Jude Foster, of the Sexual Violence Center.
Foster said the bullying in this case caused the girl to be victimized twice because the boy shared the photograph with at least one friend.
"It's hard enough to survive the assault and to go through that," Foster said. "To have that documented and sent out, that's like being sexually assaulted over and over again."
A recent study found that 48 percent of students between grades seven and 12 have been sexually harassed, and Foster told FOX 9 News it's everyone's responsibility to make sure that children learn that it is not okay -- at school or elsewhere.
"We all need to work together to have dialogue and create safe spaces for our youth," she said.
Investigators have questioned the boy and his parents, and they also executed a search warrant for his phone. So far, he has not been charged.