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Parents protest New York district’s handling of rape case

June 6, 2019

SANBORN, N.Y. (AP) — A high school principal was placed on administrative leave Thursday pending an investigation into why a student who was charged with raping a classmate last summer remained in school for a week after he pleaded guilty.

The victim’s mother and Superintendent Daniel Ljiljanich have given conflicting accounts of when the Niagara Wheatfield Central School District learned of Elias Dowdy’s May 23 plea.

At a heated Board of Education meeting Wednesday, the mother said she told Principal Michael Mann about the plea the day after it happened. Ljiljanich said he didn’t know about it until late May 30 and immediately barred Dowdy, 19, from school.

“It is very important that we allow all of the facts to be collected in this matter,” the superintendent wrote in announcing Mann’s suspension on the district’s website. He said an independent, outside investigation would be conducted.

Dowdy, who pleaded guilty to third-degree rape, attended nearly his entire senior year and played on the school’s lacrosse team while his criminal case was pending. His accuser attended the same school.

“I was stuck seeing my predator every day,” the victim said in a statement read by her mother at Wednesday’s meeting. “I had to deal with people bullying me about it and sending me photos of him and people accusing me of lying about it.”

The Associated Press does not identify people who say they are victims of sexual assault unless they come forward publicly.

About 100 students walked out in protest of the district’s handling of the case May 30 and some were suspended for their participation.

Dowdy is scheduled to be sentenced July 25.

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