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Dixie Hollins High School copes with aftermath of campus rape allegation

Students and parents arrive for classes Thursday morning at Dixie Hollins High School in Kenneth City, the morning after two students were charged with sexual battery.
Published Jan. 16, 2015

ST. PETERSBURG — Dixie Hollins High School students arrived for classes Thursday under the glare of TV news cameras, one day after a freshman and a senior were charged with sexually assaulting a girl on campus.

"We're a great school that had a bad incident," principal Dan Evans said.

On Wednesday, Kelvin King, 17, of 2621 28th St. N, St. Petersburg, and Dontae Cook, 15, 4601 40th St. N, St. Petersburg, were charged with sexual battery and taken to the Pinellas Juvenile Assessment Center.

Evans said a 15-year-old girl reported to one of the school's two resource officers on Monday that she had been assaulted in a room on campus. The principal said he could not release further details about the alleged incident, citing the open investigation, but said that it did happen this week.

"I was personally concerned and personally hurt because I don't want to see anyone on campus hurt," said Evans, who added that he is an alumnus of the school.

A Pinellas County sheriff's spokeswoman said the girl did not know her alleged attackers, and that the assault took place during the day. The spokeswoman did not know late Wednesday whether it had taken place during school hours.

About 1,900 students attend Dixie Hollins, 300 more than when Evans took the helm of the turnaround school in 2010. Since then, he said, the school has vastly improved. Instances of crime are down while academic performance is up.

"The Sheriff's Office investigation is extremely concerning to the Dixie Hollins High School community," said Melanie Marquez Parra, a spokeswoman for Pinellas County Schools. "Dixie Hollins High School has made tremendous strides in improving academics, the campus environment and school safety. The school will assist law enforcement in any way possible as the investigation moves forward.

King and Cook were football players, but Evans declined to say much else about them. Records show Cook has prior arrests for trespassing and stealing cars, but the disposition of those cases was not apparent from court records.

"I think they're kids," Evans said. "In the world I live in, we're all teachers, so we view all kids as young adults, and sometimes they make awful mistakes."

An automated call about the allegations was to be sent to parents Thursday. Evans said he sent an email to the school's 85 teachers before classes began, telling them to talk to students about the incident.

"We recognize we live in a society where bad things happen, even on school campuses sometimes," he said.

In 2009, a Dixie Hollins student was convicted of sexually assaulting a girl on a school bus while two other students acted as lookouts.

Evans said Thursday that that incident was in the past and the allegation this week is an isolated one.

On the morning announcements, he said, he reinforced his support for the school, telling students, "I know you believe in Dixie, and I believe in Dixie."

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