MONTGOMERY COUNTY, Md. (ABC7) — Two Montgomery County Public School students — ages 20 and 19 — were recently arrested at their respective high schools, on allegations they raped different 11-year-old girls at apartments located off-campus.
Jonathan Coreas-Salamanca, 20, and Ivan Reyes Lopez, 19, are each charged with second-degree rape. Coreas-Salamanca has additional counts of sexual abuse of a minor and third-degree sexual offense.
According to law enforcement sources, police arrested Coreas-Salamanca on February 13, at Montgomery Blair High School in Silver Spring, where he is enrolled as a student. Six days later, on February 19, police arrested Lopez at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School where he is enrolled as a student.
Coreas-Salamanca is accused of providing an 11-year-old girl with a cell phone sometime last year. He allegedly used that device to exchange explicit text messages and photographs with the girl, plus arrange sexual meetups.
On Christmas Eve, the victim's father came across the phone and was stunned to find scores of text messages describing "vaginal intercourse, fellatio, and cunnilingus."
"[The victim's father] described a text message where Suspect Coreas-Salamanca advised Victim A that she bit his penis the last time she performed fellatio," court documents state. "Suspect Coreas-Salamanca's purpose in sending the text message was to teach Victim A how to better perform fellatio."
The victim's father immediately called the police. Patrol officers seized the phone and submitted it to the department's Electronic Crime Unit for forensic analysis.
Lopez is accused of luring a different 11-year-old girl from a park near the Rollingwood Apartments in Silver Spring to his family's apartment. The 19-year-old reportedly told the girl to sit down on a bed. He then turned on Netflix before raping her, the victim would later tell detectives.
Speaking through a Spanish translator, Lopez explained to investigators that he led the victim by hand to his bedroom where the two had "consensual vaginal intercourse," court documents state.
During initial court appearances, Montgomery County District Court Judges Marina Sabett and John Moffett denied bond for both Coreas-Salamanca and Lopez, respectively.
The Maryland Education Code mandates that all state residents — between the ages of five and 20 — are entitled to free, public school education. Many 20-year-old students turn 21 during their final eligible year of schooling.
In light of the criminal charges brought against Coreas-Salamanca and Lopez, 7 On Your Side contacted Montgomery County Public Schools Monday and asked how many 19, 20, and 21-year-old students are currently enrolled.
A spokeswoman replied, questioning the relevancy of that information. As of this story's publication, MCPS had not provided those statistics, which 7 On Your Side believes is a matter of public record.
"There is no data suggesting that being a high school student at 19, 20, or 21 makes a person more or less likely to commit a crime," spokeswoman Gboyinde Onijala wrote in an email to 7 On Your Side. "Any suggestion otherwise is wrong and trying to make a connection there to students enrolled in our district is wrong."
Late Monday, 7 On Your Side formally submitted a Maryland Public Information Act requesting the data.
Multiple parents tell 7 On Your Side they would like to review data detailing the number of adult students walking the halls, in the most extreme cases, with kids seven years their junior.
“I would very much like the answer to that question," stated Jennifer Gross, a Montgomery County resident, mother, and longtime advocate for sexual assault prevention. “This touches a lot of different issues in the school system. It touches on educational issues. It touches on justice issues. It touches on some federal laws, local laws, state laws.”
Gross wonders what MCPS will do if Coreas-Salamanca and/or Lopez manage to bond out of jail while awaiting their trials. Will school administrators allow the accused rapists to continue with their education?
"If the school system would not allow an employee or a volunteer to be back in the school while they’re facing such serious charges, how does that change when it’s a student? They’re over 18. They are men. They just use a different badge to get into school.”
There are more than 166,000 students enrolled in MCPS this school year. Mid-interview, Gross expressed a curiosity to learn how many adult students have a criminal record.
"What is MCPS’s policy on adult students who have criminal histories? [Administrators] have stated loudly and clearly that adults who they know are a danger to children — as evidenced by criminal charges or child protective services findings — will not be allowed access to our children. So, why is this any different?”
Yet, Onijala stressed that cases involving students like Coreas-Salamanca and Lopez are very rare.
"While we are deeply saddened if these charges are true, the vast majority of our 166,000+ students do amazing things every day."
According to court documents, Coreas-Salamanca had been living along the 7700 block of 25th Avenue in Adelphi, Md. According to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the Salvadoran national is living in the U.S. illegally. The federal law enforcement agency has filed an immigration detainer with the Montgomery County Department of Correction and Rehabilitation.
Court documents state Lopez emigrated from Honduras nearly three years ago. He had been living in an apartment with his uncle along the 8800 block of Lanier Drive in Silver Spring.
Coreas-Salamanca faces up to 55 years in prison whereas Lopez faces 20 years. The stark contrast is due to the fact that Coreas-Salamanca is accused of repeatedly molesting his victim while Lopez is accused of raping his victim once.
“Will they be allowed to return to the classroom? Will they be allowed to be back in general education public high school?" Gross asked. “These are adult men. They are over the age of 18 and simply because you’re enrolled in MCPS schools — or any other school system — does not change the fact that you’re legally an adult.”
Following 7 On Your Side's reporting Monday, Montgomery County Public Schools sent a letter Tuesday afternoon to parents and guardians of students at Bethesda-Chevy Chase and Montgomery Blair High Schools.
"You may have seen a story by ABC7 of two separate incidents that occurred in the community. The story names two old students from our schools as the suspects," Montgomery Blair Principal Renay Johnson and Bethesda-Chevy Chase Acting Principal Shelton Mooney co-wrote. "We are writing to provide you with additional information that will help put the story into context."
Johnson and Mooney stressed that both alleged rapes happened off school property. They failed to acknowledge that the police arrested both students at school, but confirmed the students have been banned from attending class in the interim.
"Even though these allegations are unrelated to our schools or to MCPS, we are deeply saddened and troubled by the news of these reported crimes... We want to be very clear that the students will not return to our schools while these cases are pending."
Johnson and Mooney went on to question why 7 On Your Side's Kevin Lewis focused "so much" of his story on MCPS. Lewis, for example, asked the school system about its policies regarding students over the age of 18.
"It remains unclear to us why the reporter chose to place so much focus on the schools they attend in his story," Johnson and Mooney opined.
The letter went on to explain why Maryland law, and a 1982 U.S. Supreme Court ruling, mandate MCPS educate students up until the age of 21, as well as undocumented immigrants.
"There are hundreds of students across the school system who will be 19 or older as they walk across the stage this spring to get their high school diplomas. And there will be hundreds who will return next year that will return next year that will receive additional learning support through special education services or other MCPS programs... Additionally, consistent with the Supreme Court's ruling in Plyer v. Doe, a student's immigration status, including pending immigration proceedings, should not be a barrier to enrollment in public school."
Johnson and Mooney shared that their offices had fielded questions from parents in the wake of both rape cases making headlines. Both principals directed members of the public to contact police and prosecutors for any questions pertaining to the criminal cases and closed with the following message.
"The fact is, the majority of the 5,400+ students in our two schools do amazing things every day and are thoughtful and caring members of our community. We remain committed to providing a safe and welcoming learning environment for all of our students. Thank you for your continued support of our students and school communities."
Early Thursday, MCPS responded to 7 On Your Side's Maryland Public Information Act request. As of February 1, 2020, the school system had 1,282 students between the ages of 19-21. That accounts for around .77 percent of the approximately 166,000 students currently enrolled in MCPS.
Many parents expressed surprise and outrage this week upon learning that 20 and 21 year olds are allowed to attend school with minors as young as 14. Yet, according to Onijala, the nearly 1,300 students, ages 19-21, are in a variety of "critical" learning programs, including special education, and pose no danger to their peers.
"These students work hard, overcome various obstacles and are thoughtful and caring members of our community," Onijala explained in an email that included the requested student-age data. "Our core purpose as a school system is to prepare all students to thrive in their future and we remain steadfast in our efforts."