Prairie High School student arrested on suspicion of rape of girl, 14
Registered sex offender has long list of violations; law protects his privacy
Originally published April 18, 2012 at 10:37 a.m., updated April 19, 2012 at 10:37 a.m.
A 14-year-old girl allegedly was raped by a schoolmate last week.
The teenager suspected of the crime is a registered sex offender with a long list of violations in and out of school — but students and parents at Prairie High knew nothing of his record.
State law prevents such information from being shared at school.
Jeremiah Thompson, 19, was arrested last week on suspicion of rape of a child in the third degree, according to a probable cause statement by the Clark County Sheriff’s Office. A 14-year-old girl told deputies that Thompson took her to his house on April 12 and had sexual intercourse with her. They’d met at a WinCo Foods store close to their school.
Thompson, who is a senior at Prairie High, is in the Clark County Jail and is scheduled to be arraigned in Clark County Superior Court on Friday. His bail is set at $50,000.
The girl sought medical attention and requested a rape kit after the incident, according to the police report.
When deputies questioned Thompson about the alleged incident, he admitted meeting with the girl at the food store. Then he asked for an attorney and no further questions were asked.
Thompson had been in trouble before.
A long record
Thompson first shows up in court records in 2006, when he was 13. He and a friend, those records indicate, climbed onto the roof of a church in Northeast Vancouver to steal the church’s security cameras.
Thompson was put on community supervision, i.e. probation. He was now obligated by law to behave, including in school. But he didn’t.
Thompson was cited for multiple violations of his probation terms over the next 12 months, according to court records. He was suspended four times in that school year, including for bullying and sexual harassment.
February 2007 marked the first of many times that a court would find him to be “beyond parental control.” In May 2009, Thompson assaulted his mother. Through the first of several plea bargains, he ended up with a conviction for malicious mischief, which meant community service and more probation.
In June 2009, a 7-year-old girl described to her mother how Thompson had undressed and touched her about two months earlier. The child gave the same description to a medical professional on a separate occasion. Thompson was arrested for child molestation in the first degree, a class A felony.
When defense attorneys interviewed the child, her description wavered, and prosecutors made a plea offer for communication with a minor for immoral purposes, a misdemeanor.
Thompson pleaded guilty to that offense and would have faced minor punishment, if not for an offense committed during the same period.
In July 2009, Thompson attempted to violently rape his mother, according to charging documents.
When his brother tried to pull him off their mother, Thompson assaulted the brother. Through another plea bargain, Thompson was found guilty of assault with a sexual motive, not the attempted rape prosecutors had originally charged him with.
Thompson was examined by several psychologists. Their reports led a judge to find Thompson fit to stand trial.
On Feb. 17, 2010, Thompson was sentenced for both crimes committed in 2009. As part of his conviction, he was told to register as a sex offender for the next 10 years.
He received time served -- 30 days -- plus one year probation for the case involving the 7-year-old. But he was sent to juvenile detention for 12 months for the assault. It was an unusually severe punishment for that offense, to “protect the community,” according to the court order. The judge said Thompson had “not shown an ability to follow prior court orders and/or perform in a community setting.”
But on Aug. 17, 2010, after six months in juvenile detention near Centralia, Thompson was released back to Clark County. By state law, his old school had to take him back.
Teaching sex offenders
When a student younger than 21 registers as a sex offender, he’s still guaranteed an education in Washington, said Nathan Olson, spokesman for the Superintendent of Public Instruction.
Thompson re-enrolled at Prairie High in September 2010, said Gregg Herrington, a Battle Ground school district spokesman.
Thompson registered with the Clark County Sheriff’s Office as a sex offender upon his return from the juvenile institution, said Sgt. Fred Neiman. The sheriff’s office notified Prairie High of Thompson’s conviction, as it is required to do by law.
The school, which also received notice from the juvenile institution that Thompson was coming back to Prairie, put the then-17-year-old in a “sheltered classroom” for part of the school day, Herrington said. Administrators told employees who would work with Thompson about his sex-offender status, as they are required to do by law.
When Thompson was not in the classroom reserved for students with behavior issues, he was closely monitored by staff, Herrington said.
Over the course of that school year and the next, Thompson repeatedly violated the terms of his probation, according to court records.
He failed drug tests and stayed out past his curfew. And he was suspended from school on multiple occasions, for being absent and, once, for abusing a prescription drug, court papers say.
Each time, a judge sent him to juvenile detention. Those stays lasted from four days in April 2011 to 10 days in late November 2011. At one point, Thompson was told to serve his time on the weekends and attend school during the week under the custody of his mother, whom he had assaulted more than once.
In September 2011, the sheriff’s office again sent a notice to Prairie High about Thompson’s sex offender status, this time as part of a routine mailing at the beginning of the school year.
But while school officials, teachers and deputies knew Thompson’s status, no notice was ever given to students and parents at Prairie High. State law doesn’t permit it.
One week ago, Thompson allegedly raped the 14-year-old girl whom he went to school with.
Battle Ground school policies and procedures are closely modeled after a state template created in 2006. The district policy says that a principal must notify teachers, security officers and other personnel working with a student sex offender who is deemed a moderate to high risk to reoffend by authorities. Thompson was classified as a moderate risk to reoffend.
The district policy also says that any such notification may not be further disseminated except as provided in state or federal law. Inquiries by parents or students regarding such offenders must be referred to law enforcement. Thompson appears on the Clark County sheriff’s website for sex offenders (http://www.communitynotification.com), which does not indicate his school.
Vancouver and Evergreen school districts have similar policies to Battle Ground’s, as does Oregon. It’s an issue that’s been discussed at the state level for years, said Olson, Washington’s school spokesman.
The student’s right to privacy “runs smack-dab into school safety,” he said.
The state laws governing such issues cite the Federal Educational and Privacy Rights Act -- FERPA -- as a source for the restrictions on who can know about a student’s criminal record.
But the federal law, which prohibits pretty much any information about individual students from being shared with anyone besides their own parents and school employees, has a clear exemption for sex offenders.
It reads: “Nothing in this section may be construed to prohibit an educational institution from disclosing information (about) sex offenders who are required to register …”
It’s a tricky area of the law, said Frank LoMonte, executive director of the Student Press Law Center, an expert on FERPA.
It is “not a model of clarity,” he said.
LoMonte interprets the FERPA exception as allowing a student’s sex offender record to be disclosed to students and parents, he said. But the federal law does not mandate such notifications -- it only allows them, he said.
Several school officials told The Columbian that law enforcement ought to be responsible for notifying the public, including students and parents at their schools.
But police do not have access to enrollment lists and contact information for every parent, said Neiman, the sheriff’s office spokesman.
This issue needs to be addressed through an administrative process, he said.
The Columbian requested records from the sheriff’s office on which Clark County schools currently house sex-offender students. The records were not available in time for this story.