Local and state crime bureau officials are working to determine whether alleged student misbehavior in the small North Dakota town of Colfax might be criminal, Richland County Sheriff Larry Leshovsky said Thursday.
School district Superintendent Tim Godfrey has said the alleged misbehavior in the boys' locker room at the school for seventh- through 12th-graders might have involved sexual harassment.
The incident has sparked rumors that the alleged misbehavior might involve younger students being sexually violated in a darkened locker room by older students. Leshovsky declined to comment on the talk in the community of 150 people, though he said nothing is being ruled out.
"A lot of times what you have is third-hand information," the sheriff said. "We need to find out exactly what happened here. With the emotions running high, people think the worst."
Some students have been removed from classes, according to Godfrey. He has not said how many or detailed what "removed" entails.
Leshovsky said those students will be interviewed, but he isn't labeling them suspects. Other students and witnesses will be interviewed, as well, he said. About 160 students attend the school, which is about 30 miles from Fargo.
The investigation likely will take another week to complete, Leshovsky said.
Mayor Scott Gauslow has said the situation has "put up a divide" in the normally tightknit community. Jenny Schmitt, a parent of a high school student and an elementary school student, called it "a bump in the road, but we'll get through it together and hopefully be stronger."