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Public’s Help Sought in Finding Rapist Who Attacked Girl : Crime: 5- year- old was attacked in bathroom of a South- Central school. Change in policy is sought.

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Police and government officials gathered outside a South-Central Los Angeles elementary school Thursday to seek help in finding a rapist who attacked a 5-year-old girl in the school’s bathroom.

The victim, a kindergartner, was attacked Tuesday at 66th Street School after excusing herself from class about 1:25 p.m., police said. She remained hospitalized under observation Thursday but was expected to be released later in the night, police said.

Assistant Principal Ontario Walker called the assault “shocking.”

“How in the world did this happen?” she said. “We’re so vigilant.”

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Los Angeles Unified School Board member Barbara Boudreaux, whose district includes the area, called the attacker “the most despicable character walking this earth” and announced plans to introduce a motion at the Feb. 6 school board meeting that would prohibit unaccompanied bathroom breaks for all students districtwide.

It was unknown if the suspect had been hiding in the bathroom or walked in after the girl entered. The attack lasted five minutes, and the door to the bathroom remained open the entire time, said Capt. Jim Tatreau, commanding officer of the LAPD’s Newton Division.

It was unclear Thursday if the girl cried for help, but Tatreau said the suspect fled the campus undetected after the assault.

About 75 parents met with officials in the school’s auditorium Thursday morning to express outrage at the attack and offer help in beefing up security at the school, said school district spokeswoman Diana Munatones.

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Police said at least three people reported seeing a man who matched the description of the assailant on the campus about 1 1/2 hours before the attack.

But Detective Maria Rivas, who is handling the investigation, said a lone man walking school grounds should not have automatically raised concerns because “It’s not unusual for older siblings to come by to pick up students.”

School officials reported that gates around the campus are normally locked while classes are conducted and that at least three security guards are on duty during school hours.

Although some district schools have policies barring students from using restrooms unaccompanied, 66th Street School only “encourages” youngsters to follow that practice, Munatones said.

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That may change.

Under the districtwide bathroom break proposed by Boudreaux, a student would not be able to leave class to use the restroom unless escorted by at least another pupil of the same gender.

Parent Venetia Shells didn’t wait for a change in school policy before taking action. She already told her 8-year-old son Brandon, a third-grader at the school, that he cannot go to the bathroom alone.

“Now I’m going to ask my teacher to have someone go with me,” said the boy, standing with his mother outside their home, which faces the school.

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“You better believe it,” Shells said.

Los Angeles City Councilwoman Rita Walters said she plans to author a City Council motion offering $25,000 for information leading to the capture and conviction of the assailant.

Despite the concern, attendance levels were normal Thursday, Walker said.

Police offered a general description of the suspect as a slender black male between 16 and 20 years old. He is 5 foot, 6 inches to 5 foot, 8 inches tall, and was wearing dark clothing. Any one with information is asked to call (213) 485-5274 or (213) 485-5263 after 5 p.m.

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