The Gila County Attorney's office formally charged three junior high students from Pine-Strawberry School last week for allegedly sexually assaulting two female classmates on school grounds.
According to petitions filed April 1 in Gila County Superior Court, a 14-year-old boy and two 13-year-old boys restrained a female classmate in February and touched her breasts. The 14-year-old also allegedly touched the breasts of another female classmate. Both girls are under the age of 15.
The 14-year-old was charged with two counts of sexual abuse and aggravated assault. The two 13-year-olds were charged with sexual abuse, aggravated assault and unlawful imprisonment for allegedly holding the girl down.
All three teens faced school disciplinary action last month by the Pine-Strawberry School Board. The board took action against the students in executive session but was barred by law from revealing the outcome. The students faced punishment as severe as long-term suspension or expulsion.
Students who are expelled from one public school in Arizona are prevented by law from enrolling in another Arizona school without special permission from the school board. All other students may move to a new district and apply for standard enrollment or apply for a school district transfer.
Payson School Superintendent Russ Kinzer would not say Tuesday whether the Payson School District has received petitions for enrollment from any of the Pine students, but one of the 13-year-olds is now enrolled at Rim Country Middle School.
An advisory hearing will be set for the teens to inform them of the charges and to set a date for a pre-adjudicatory hearing, which is equivalent to a pretrial hearing in adult court.
At that time, the teens, who will be tried in juvenile court, will be allowed to accept plea agreements and plead guilty, Deputy County Attorney Mike Walsh said, or request adjudicatory hearing dates, which are equivalent to trial dates in adult court.