A 17-year-old football player for Westminster Schools was in the Fulton County Jail Monday on a charge that he sexually assaulted a teammate in the gym showers at the prestigious institution, according to police.
William Jackson Houk turned himself in to Atlanta police on Sunday. He is charged with aggravated sexual battery. No bond has been set, according to the jail.
Monday afternoon, the school sent an email to parents, school trustees and staff alerting them to what police are investigating as a sexual assault. But it provided few details.
“I write to you in order to express deep concern regarding an incident that took place last week involving a few students on the varsity football team,” school president William Clarkson wrote. “I can assure you that we have taken all steps within the school’s strict guidelines and protocols regarding such matters, including the fulfillment of our responsibility to report this particular incident to the Atlanta police. They are now in charge of the investigation, and we are cooperating fully with them.”
Clarkson said in an interview that the school learned of the incident when some coaches overheard players talking about it at a practice and questioned the alleged victim.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution does not name alleged victims of sexual assault.
“The boy is a really, really good kid and he’s maintained that he’s fine,” Clarkson said. “I think he just wants it to be over.”
His parents had left for a trip overseas when the school contacted the boy’s aunt, who was caring for him while they were away.
The incident, according to police, occurred Oct. 22 and the aunt learned of it from the school the next day. She, her nephew and an official from the school went to Children’s Health Care of Atlanta on Oct. 23, and that’s when police were called.
Clarkson said the circumstances surrounding the alleged attack are unknown. “It’s very, very fuzzy to me about just exactly who may have witnessed it but the police took over the investigation and told us to back off and it was in their hands,” he said.
The charge is one of the more serious criminal offenses in Georgia law. It is one of the so-called “seven deadly sins” for which there is no parole unless the sentence is life, and in those cases parole is possible only after 30 years have been served.
According to Georgia law, aggravated sexual battery is when a “foreign object” is inserted into the body of another person. A conviction carries a punishment of 25 years to life in prison.
Westminster is a 60-year-old private school in northwest Atlanta with more than 1,800 students from kindergarten, or “pre-first,” through the 12th grade. Many of its graduates enroll in the University of Georgia, but many are admitted to elite institutions like Yale, Princeton and Stanford universities. Tuition for students in the early grades is almost $20,000 a year, but the annual tuition for students in the sixth grade or higher exceeds $22,000.
Clarkson said this is believed to be the first time an incident like this happened at the school
“For 60 years, Westminster has maintained appropriately high standards for student conduct. This has been the foundation of our school and is essential for the success of our students,” Clarkson wrote. “It is important to emphasize to our students, our parents and our community that conduct not meeting those standards will not be tolerated.”