Police and Oakland, Calif., school officials are investigating a second grader's story that her classmates undressed and engaged in a sex act in a classroom, an allegation a district spokesman called "unthinkable."
A 7-year-old girl told a teacher's aide on Wednesday about two incidents, one in which she said some of her classmates stripped and another when two allegedly had oral sex.
"We believe if the reports are true, there was a serious lapse of judgment or lack of supervision in the classroom," said Troy Flint, a spokesman for the Oakland Unified School District told The Associated Press. "We're investigating how could this have happened. It seems unthinkable to us, just the same way it does to the public."
The school principal sent a letter to parents and staff of the Markham Elementary School on Thursday, informing them of "a disturbing event which, according to initial findings, took place at Markham Elementary recently."
The letter, signed by Markham principal Pam Booker, said the district is investigating the report "aggressively," and said it so far the evidence "suggests that the reports have merit."
The teacher of the class "will not be reporting to the site, pending the results of further investigation," the letter said. He is on administrative leave.
The grandmother of the girl who reported the incident said that she didn't think the teacher was present when the incidents occurred, but school officials said they believe the teacher was in the room.
"He expressed that he did not have any knowledge of what is alleged to have occurred," Flint told ABC News station KGO-TV in San Francisco.
Assisting the school's investigation were officers from the Oakland Police Department sexual assault unit, who were talking to the 20 or so children in that classroom, according to KGO-TV.
Parents of children at the school said they were shocked at the report.
"If I had known this morning, I would not have brought him to school," parent Lataya Young told KGO on Friday.
"The teacher should have paid more attention to what's going on," parent Nikki Turner said.
Other people in the community said that if the story is true, the parents of the children involved share much of the blame.
"I don't understand it, but it's on the parents, OK, because they learn that at home, they don't teach that at school," Allen Saunders, who has a nephew is in the class, told KGO.
Pediatrician and child abuse expert Dr. Jim Crawford said for children so young to do the things the girl said they did "is profoundly abnormal behavior."
"My concern would be maybe something happened to one or more of the kids involved and that they're responding in this type of behavior because of what happened to them," he told KGO.
The district has been providing counseling for the children in the classroom and the principal has been speaking with students. The district has not released the teacher's name but he has been placed on administrative leave.