Petition claims sex for grades, pervasive abuse at Ocean City High School
OCEAN CITY — Anonymous allegations of bullying, sexual abuse and students sleeping with teachers in exchange for grades are being leveled at Ocean City High School.
A Change.org petition is calling for an investigation against the faculty, guidance and administration at Ocean City High School. The petition has nearly 3,000 signatures as of Tuesday morning.
The Ocean City school district said it was aware of the "unsafe and unjust practices" at the high school and asked police to review the allegations. The Cape May County Prosecutor's Office is also reviewing to determine the origin of the allegations.
"The physical safety and mental well-being of our students have always been among the Ocean City School district’s foremost concerns," the district said. "The district has consistently maintained and enforced all anti-harassment, intimidation and bullying policies required by the Department of Education, as well as all reporting obligations for any student who is suspected to have been abused, neglected and/or missing."
Among the allegations:
- Rumors of students sleeping with teachers in exchange for good grades
- A student who accused a teacher of grooming a 15-year-old student in 2014 was told by other faculty members that they had no proof and could "go to prison for defamation of character." That teacher was later arrested on charges of sexually assaulting a minor on school grounds. The petition does not name the teacher but choir teacher Ricardo Valle was arrested in March while living in Texas and charged with sexually assaulting a 17-year-old student in 2016 in the school's music room.
- A female student was surrounded by a group of boys while on a school bus and "pulled her hair, tried to kiss her cheeks and neck, groped her breasts, put her in a chokehold from behind, and would grab her by the wrist to try to force her hands to touch their genitals." After she fought back by digging her fingernails into the boys' arms, she was bit in the ear. When the incident was reported to the school she was threatened with suspension for attacking the boys.
- A student who made a speech regarding gay rights was passed a note commending "her bravery for speaking out about the topic." The teacher later asked numerous questions about being a lesbian and sent an email asking to meet after school. After another teacher told the student that the school "reads all of their emails," communication ended and the school, presumably aware of the emails, took no action.
- Teachers sitting next to a fight during lunch between two students made no attempt to break it up.
- The principal never met with a student who was bullied for two years while another student who reported a bully was "told to recant her assertion."
The petition also links to a Cape May County Herald story about a male student who committed suicide in 2018 although no details about the incident were disclosed by the district. According to the petition the student took his own life after a video of him "being intimate with another student" was posted online without permission and no action was taken by the school against the student or measures taken to remove the video.
A report by the Press of Atlantic City about John Delgrande's 2014 suicide was linked in the story and the allegation made that a pep rally went on as scheduled despite his death being announced to students and no grief counseling was provided despite a statement that it was.
"Students were told 'suck it up' and to go to class. Although not illegal, it’s abysmally immoral," the petition says.
Signers of the petition offered reasons for signing, many because they went through the same thing while attending the school.
"I attended this school and I can’t even begin to tell you how many teachers and other staff were having affairs with students," said Regina Halper.
"This is horrible and it’s been going on for years. A close family friend was bullied to the point of suicide at this school in 2010, and surely enough, OCHS did nothing to reprimand those bullies. Hold them accountable," Tasmiah Haque said.
"As an OCHS grad I am horrified, but not surprised, by any of the allegations listed in this petition. The school is obsessed with their image and the prestige of the district, not assisting the teens in their school. What a disgrace," Katelynn Wintz said.
"Went out for drinks with a buddy and went down high school memory lane. So much s**t happened the years we were there. Still cant get over my best friend having to tell me his brother was taken off life support, only to have a f**king pep rally later that day," Alexander Pefetti said.
According to the district website 1,250 students attend Ocean City High School from Ocean City as well as Corbin City, Sea Isle City and Upper Township.
The allegations come after an Instagram page called ocbp_predators describe men in their 30s and 40s taking advantage of 16- and 17-year-old female lifeguards.