(Memphis) An 11-year-old girl told adults she was fondled by a man who entered a school bathroom as she and cheerleading teammates were changing their clothes.
On Wednesday afternoon, about ten or 11 girls were changing in the bathroom of the Hanley Elementary School gym in Orange Mound, getting ready for practice with their private cheer organization.
The group is not associated with Memphis City Schools, but uses some MCS campuses for practice space.
Girls ages three to 12 were changing in the bathroom before practice, when they say a man walked in.
“He walks in, and asks the girls what are they doing in here. They said, dressing for cheerleading practice. And so he asked them something else, and he touched my daughter on her breast,” the mother of the victim said.
Another mom, whose seven-year-old daughter witnessed the event, said, “He was blocking the doorway. Because I asked my daughter, ‘why didn’t you leave out?’ She said she couldn’t. And at that point, you know, he fondled the little girl in front of everyone.”
Both mothers are not being identified to protect their children.
The victim’s mother said of her daughter, “She’s very distraught, she’s upset; she feels violated. I mean, she wants to see something happen as I do too. My thing is, what if she was in there by herself?”
She said her daughter immediately told the coach of their cheer organization, but no one reported the incident to police.
The coach notified the girl’s grandmother when she picked her up, but no one contacted the girl’s mother.
The mother filed a police report when she found out.
Another girl who witnessed the event told parents she recognized the man as a substitute teacher.
Memphis City Schools representatives said that based on what the girls are saying, they have narrowed the possibilities to one person who may have been there at that time.
That person has been taken off the substitute teacher roster while this matter is investigated.
School officials have turned over that information to Memphis police, who will then decide how to proceed.
“I still have not gotten a call or any concerns from anyone. It’s like I’m trying to do FBI work myself. I’m trying to solve the case myself,” said the victim’s mother.
A second mom also filed a police report, because she believes the same man came to her house after the incident on Wednesday.
She said he knocked and rang the doorbell, but she couldn’t answer the door in time. She said her seven-year-old daughter, who witnessed the bathroom incident, saw the man leaving their front steps.
“She saw him, his profile, and she was terrified and freaked out. She said this is the guy.”
The mother was so frightened she had her family stay somewhere else Wednesday night.
While it is unclear whether the man was in fact a substitute teacher, the parents are outraged at how the situation was handled.
They are now dealing with helping their daughters cope with the shock.
They’re telling them, “This is not their fault. I don’t want them to feel ashamed or guilty or any of that. And that you just have to be aware.”