Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Oh No Not AGAIN - Oprah School Sex Scandal

Oprah Winfrey says she is "disheartened" that her elite boarding school for girls in South Africa has been rocked by its second sex scandal in fewer than two years.

"I'm disappointed that several of our students chose to disregard the school's rules. It's disheartening when any student has to be suspended or expelled and it's a process that involves serious review and consideration," Winfrey said in a statement to "Entertainment Tonight" Tuesday. "Indiscretions resulting in disciplinary action are common in schools all over the world. Unfortunately, because of my name these common infractions place the Academy in the media spotlight."

Seven students were suspended last week for sexually harassing their schoolmates, the "Afrikaans on Sunday" newspaper reported. One 15-year-old was accused of preying on another pupil and forcing other girls to lie to investigators about it, the paper reported.

"You have been found guilty of physical contact of a sexual nature with another pupil on campus, harassment, bullying other girls on campus and of being dishonest by not telling investigators the whole truth," a letter to her parents read. Other girls were caught fondling each other or trying to get other girls to join them in lesbian liasons, the paper reported.

Oprah's spokesperson, Lisa Halliday, confirmed the girls had been suspended from the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy School for Girls - but gave few details.
"It is because they contravened the school's code of conduct," she said. "We regard the incident as confidential."

Winfrey called it the proudest moment of her life when she opened the $46 million school near Johannesburg in January 2007 to help high achieving but poor South African girls.
Nelson Mandela dedicated the school and luminaries ranging from songbirds Mariah Carey and Mary J. Blige to filmmaker Spike Lee and actor Sidney Poitier attended the opening.

The school, which aims to house 450 girls in grades 7 through 12 by 2011, offered free tuition, books and uniforms, as well as room and board. In return, the girls were required to follow the rules. Ten months later, Winfrey sobbed uncontrollably after 15 girls eported they had been sexually abused by a matron who was supposed to be watching over them.

The talk show queen said the sex abuse charges hit her especially hard because she was raped and molested by a cousin, uncle and family friend when she was 9.
"I am a mama bear when it comes to protecting my children," she said at the time. "These girls are like my children. That's not just rhetoric for me. I take their futures and the possibility for what their futures hold very seriously."

Dorm matron Virginia Tiny Makgobo, 27, was charged with indecent assault, common assault, soliciting a minor to perform an indecent act and verbal abuse of girls at the school. She denies the charges and is due back in court on June 1. Vowing to "clean house," Winfrey also fired the school's headmistress and announced she would hand out cell phones - with her number on speed dial - to each student.

It was not clear if any students used their phones to report the latest outrage.

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