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Four Norman North High School wrestlers charged with sex assaults on bus

Four Norman North High School wrestlers are facing various sexual assault charges for an incident which allegedly took place on a bus returning from a junior varsity event in early January, according to multiple media reports in Oklahoma Monday.

District Attorney Greg Mashburn filed charges Monday for incidents which may have taken place as a Norman North bus was returning from a tournament in Pauls Valley, Okla. about 40 miles south of Norman. One reported victim is 16 years old; the other is twelve. Both victims as well as the accused are wrestlers for the Norman North Timberwolves.

One of the defendants is charged as an adult because he is 18 years old. The other three defendants are age 16-17, and have been charged as youthful offenders. All have been charged with rape by instrumentation. Charges were filed in Garvin County, which is where Pauls Valley is located, where some of the assaults allegedly took place.

The 16-year-old victim was reportedly attacked at the back of the bus by three of the suspects. The accused perpetrators allegedly tried to lure the younger victim to the rear of the bus; when he failed to cooperate, they dragged him to the back of the bus and allegedly raped him there. When the bus returned to Norman North, the 12-year-old was again sexually assaulted two more times -- once in a secluded area next to the building, and in between two parked cars in the school parking lot. The final attack ended when the younger victim's parents arrived to pick him up.

The alleged incidents took place Jan. 9. Norman Public Schools launched their own investigation, and contacted Norman City Police. A few days later, the school system suspended the accused attackers, and issued the following statement: "An adjunct coach who was responsible for supervising students on the bus was immediately dismissed. A second coach has been suspended pending further investigation."

Norman Public Schools Superintendent Joseph Siano released the following statement:

"Student safety is a top priority and we followed procedures we have in place that allow us to effectively investigate and take swift action in these situations. We appreciate the individuals who came forward to provide information, the Norman Police Department's thorough investigation and the quick action by the District Attorney on this incident. We are well-prepared to handle situations like this and have programs in place to support students who experience trauma. And, while we believe the district's policies regarding student supervision are strong, we continuously evaluate our procedures to ensure they are followed. As we address the inappropriate behavior displayed by several students, we remain committed to supporting the vast majority of our student athletes, who are quality individuals that demonstrate positive behavior and strong character traits."

Norman North High School, established in 1997, has an enrollment of approximately 2,300 students. It's one of two public high schools in Norman, Okla., a city of approximately 110,000 located about 20 miles south of downtown Oklahoma City. The third-largest city in the state, Norman is the home to the University of Oklahoma.

Update: On Tuesday, Feb. 2, the four defendants appeared in court in Garvin County, where each entered not guilty pleas. Bail has been set at $5,000 each. A preliminary hearing has been scheduled for April 14.

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