5th Grader Allegedly Molested by Classmate at Freeport Middle School

By: Meghan Dwyer Email
By: Meghan Dwyer Email

Cherokee Pendergrass is just 11 years-old. But she says she wanted to come forward with her story because she's afraid other girls are also being hurt.

"We're just hoping by coming and telling her story it doesn't happen to someone else because we do know that it's still going on there, but the girls don't have the...they don't want to come forward," says her mom, Heather Thompson.

Cherokee says she was molested by a classmate last fall at Freeport Middle school - touched inappropriately at school three times.

She says she told the school lunch monitor and her teacher, but they didn't do anything about it.

So she told her mom - who immediately called the school.

Cherokee's mom Heather Thompson says the school told her they would suspend the boy for a week and remove him from Cherokee's class.

But weeks later the boy was still in school, and still in her classroom.

Thompson consulted a sexual abuse counselor who helped the family get an order of protection against the boy who touched her, and another boy who acted as a look out.

Thompson says the school was still unresponsive, failing to remove the boys from her class immediately.

Instead, she says, the school suggested Cherokee change schools.

So she did. Thompson says she was initially refused special bus service, but the school finally relented, putting her on a special bus to keep her safe.

A few months later, Cherokee realized that her alleged attacker was riding the same bus.

When her mother called the School Board she says the school admitted he had been riding the bus for at least two months - and the school didn't realize it.

Cherokee and her family have left Freeport, and she'll go to a new school district in the fall, but they said they felt compelled to come forward because Cherokee has friends who are too scared to come forward and say the same thing has happened to them.

The school says they are not at liberty to discuss school discipline issues and would not comment on whether they are currently investigating Cherokee's claims about other classmates.

The School Board's policies say the District doesn't tolerate abuse, and they investigate all reports.

The boys have not hurt Cherokee since the initial alleged incidents in the fall of 2011.

The orders of protection issued against the boys don't expire until 2013, and they have been violated multiple times.

Freeport Police say they can't do much except make sure the students are in separate classrooms.

"They've always [the school] made us feel like it was our fault, or her fault," Thompson says.

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