NEW PORT RICHEY — For the second time in less than a week, a high school student has been accused of raping another student in a boys' restroom.
During school hours.
The cases, though similar, are unrelated, authorities said. Last week, a former student at Fivay High School was arrested: Justin Kulik, 17, charged with sexual battery, accused of pulling a girl into a boys' restroom on Nov. 16, pushing her down and raping her. Kulik's DNA matched semen found on the victim's clothes, according to the Pasco County Sheriff's Office. Kulik denies the charges, authorities said.
On Monday, in the second case, a 15-year-old student at Ridgewood High School was arrested at the school and charged with sexual battery.
Seth Z. Watson is accused of waiting for a girl in a school hallway on Oct. 14, grabbing her arm, pulling her into a boys' restroom and laying her on the floor. The victim told investigators that Watson pulled her jeans down and raped her. "She said she told him to quit and he told her to shut up and be quiet," according to a Sheriff's Office report.
"It's unusual for something like that to happen," sheriff's spokesman Kevin Doll said of the alleged on-campus rapes during school hours.
He said school resource officers "do patrol the campuses. But they can't be everywhere at all times."
Last week, test results from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement were sent to the Sheriff's Office, stating Watson's DNA matched semen found on the victim's clothing. Watson, who is in ninth grade, denied committing the alleged sexual battery, the report states. A woman who said she is Watson's mother answered the phone at his house Tuesday afternoon and said the family did not want to comment for this story.
Pasco schools spokeswoman Summer Romagnoli cannot speak specifically about Watson — if he was disciplined after the allegations in October, for example — because of student privacy laws. All she could say is that Watson, who was 14 at the time of the alleged attack, is still listed as a student at Ridgewood High School.
"When the allegations were brought forth, they were addressed immediately," Romagnoli said.
She said some restrooms are now closed during class periods and staffers are monitoring those that are open more regularly.
Christina Bates is the social change community organizer for Sunrise of Pasco County, a nonprofit agency that helps victims of domestic violence and sexual assault.
"These stories are alarming," she said, of the alleged high school rapes.
Bates does outreach programs in middle schools and high schools, discussing things from bullying to sexual violence.
Some teenagers "don't understand boundaries and consent," she said.
Some students think once they've had sexual relations with someone, that means they don't need permission to do it again. She talks with the students about healthy relationships, about what is acceptable and what is not.
"If we look to the victims in this case, at that point it's too late. What can they do other than fight back, where they could be injured more seriously?" Bates said. "We need to have conversations about how we are going to stop people from perpetrating these crimes — and not putting girls in these situations."
Both Kulik and Watson were taken into juvenile custody, Doll said. Kulik is now an adult education student at Marchman Technical Education Center.
Times researcher Natalie Watson contributed to this story. Erin Sullivan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 869-6229.