published Wednesday, May 21st, 2014

Calhoun school district bans 3 identified as rape suspects from graduation ceremony

Calhoun School District Statement
Calhoun School District Statement
Incident report
Incident report

CALHOUN, Ga. — As police continue to investigate an alleged rape that occurred earlier this month at a party after Calhoun High School's prom, the school district has banned three seniors from attending graduation Friday night.

Though no arrests have been made, and though police have not named any of the 25 students at the party, Calhoun City Schools announced that three students have been identified as suspects.

In a statement released Tuesday afternoon, the school district said it is continuing to cooperate with Gilmer County Sheriff's Office investigators.

"The board and administration are concerned that the presence of the identified suspects at Friday's commencement ceremonies would likely cause a substantial disruption and could create an unsafe environment," the statement read. "For these reasons, the suspects will not be attending graduation. Our continued thoughts and prayers are with the victim, her family and all those involved in this tragic course of events."

Spokesman Peter Coombe did not return an email Tuesday night requesting the identity of these three students. And investigators still have not named them.

The school district's decision came hours after the Gilmer County Sheriff's Office released an incident report revealing the beginning of its investigation. Around 2 a.m. on May 11, according to the report, a student met with Calhoun Police Sgt. Kenneth Coleman.

The student told Coleman that she and others from Calhoun High School partied after prom at a cabin in the Coosawattee River Resort, a gated community in Ellijay. The cabin is owned by the parents of another Calhoun High School student.

During the party, the student told Coleman, multiple men raped her. Then, she passed out in a bathroom.

Because the crime occurred in the county northeast of Calhoun, Coleman called the Gilmer County Sheriff's Office, which has been investigating the alleged rape for the last 10 days. Capt Frank Copeland, the spokesman for the Sheriff's Office, has told the Times Free Press that all of those involved are at least 18 years old. If charges are filed, he said, they will be filed in Criminal Court, not Juvenile Court.

Copeland said the process for this investigation is tedious. About 25 students were there from Calhoun High, and one student was there from Dalton, Ga. Most in attendance were drinking, and they all know each other well from school, and the typical social pressures of high school can influence how people react to the crime, what they are willing to tell investigators about their peers, he said.

On Tuesday, he declined to speculate about when an arrest would come.

"We are trying to finalize the investigation," he wrote in an email. "Patience is requested."

On Tuesday, nobody answered the door when a reporter showed up at 20 Edgewater Drive, a cabin in a secluded area and the scene of the party.

Contact staff writer Tyler Jett at 423-757-6476 or at tjett@timesfreepress.com.

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