The day Minneapolis Henry High School student Santwoine Thornton was charged with raping another student during school hours last week, he was to be honored as a college scholarship winner.
An honor roll student, Thornton wrote last month in the school's online newspaper that he planned to attend Minneapolis Community and Technical College to major in urban park, recreation and youth development. He boasted he proved people wrong who believed he would be dead or in jail by the time he was 18.
Police say Thornton, 17, of Minneapolis and Henry student Raevon Conner, 18, of Brooklyn Park may be responsible for at least four sexual assaults at the school in May and June. Conner, who was charged with raping a different student, was an honor student, a football player and a member of the school's championship poetry slam team.
Henry Principal Gary Kociemba declined Monday to comment about Thornton and Conner, but said his heart goes out to the families of the students involved.
"Nobody likes to see anything like this happen," he said.
Kociemba said that the school didn't know about the assaults "until it was too late." A 15-year-old victim came to school officials June 4, the day she was allegedly assaulted by Conner. Further interviews by police turned up Thornton as a second suspect, as well as three more victims assaulted in May and June.
"We need to continually encourage students to tell somebody at school if they are being bullied, harassed or threatened in any way," Kociemba said. "I plan to put a program in place this fall to emphasize this point."
Conner and Thornton worked in tandem, seeking a victim and luring her to an isolated stairwell in the school, police said. Once there, authorities said, they took turns forcing the girl to perform oral sex and acting as a lookout. They knew where surveillance cameras were, police said.