Sexual assault charges will be dropped against two undocumented immigrant students accused of raping a 14-year-old girl in a bathroom of a high school in Rockville, Md.—a case that stoked the national debate on immigration.
The case captured the attention of the White House, sparked fear among parents, and raised questions about public schools’ legal obligation to educate students regardless of immigration status. White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer cited it as an example of why President Donald Trump is cracking down on illegal immigration.
Henry Sanchez Milian and Jose Montano, both undocumented immigrant male students from Central America, were jailed for more than a month, charged with forcing a 14-year-old female student into a boys’ bathroom and repeatedly assaulting her.
The teenagers came to the United States on their own within the last year to join relatives already living in the country. They enrolled at Rockville High soon after in specialized program for English-language learners.
Defense lawyers for both the teenagers maintained that the sex acts were consensual and that text messages and school surveillance videos did not substantiate the girl’s claims.
The accused teenagers are not off the hook though.
Milian will face a charge of child pornography for lewd images found on his cellphone and Montano will be turned over to the juvenile court system, the Washington Post reports.
The sexual assault allegations forced the Montgomery County, Md., schools to spend as much time explaining their legal duty to enroll students regardless of their immigration status and urging the public not to judge an entire immigrant community based on one disturbing incident. Hispanic students make up 30 percent of the enrollment in the 159,000-student district.
Rockville High and its immigrant students were the targets of racist and xenophobic phone and email threats in the days after the alleged assault occurred, school officials said.
“First and foremost, our thoughts and prayers continue to be with the Rockville High School community, particularly the female student who has been at the center of this,” schools Superintendent Jack Smith wrote in a statement after news broke of the assault charges being dropped.
“The safety and security of every student in each school is our first priority and a responsibility that we take very seriously. We have and will continue to work every day to ensure our schools are safe places to learn. Learning is our core mission and central purpose.”
A version of this news article first appeared in the Learning the Language blog.