Hillsborough students face bias charges

School board moves on discplinary actions as Prosecutor’s Office announces charges.

By:Alec Moore and Krzysztof Scibiorski
   The four Hillsborough High School students involved in the April 30 assault against a 17-year-old gay student at the school are learning the penalties they’ll face this week.
   Franklin Richardson, 19, and a 16-year-old juvenile, whom authorities refer to as D.R., have been charged with bias intimidation and simple assault by the Somerset County prosecutor’s office. Following the announcement, the Board of Education suspended Mr. Richardson through the end of the school year and permanently expelled the younger student.
   Mr. Richardson will be arraigned Friday in Somerset County state Superior Court.
   Two other students involved, referred to as D.B. and D.P., ages 15 and 16 respectively, have been charged with simple assault in connection with the incident. They were suspended through the end of the school year by the board.
   "The message we are sending is that we will not tolerate violations of the code of civility that is necessary for learning," School’s Superintendent Robert Gulick said at 1:40 a.m. Tuesday after the board spent nearly four hours deliberating the fates of the students.
   According to Somerset County Prosecutor Wayne Forrest, Mr. Richardson and D.P. approached the victim, Scott Lipich, outside the school that morning and harassed him over his sexual orientation. Prosecutor Forrest noted that Mr. Lipich and other witnesses at the scene indicated that this had been an ongoing occurrence for several weeks.
   Later that day, during Scott’s lunch period, D.R. approached him while he was eating and harassed him again over his sexual orientation. At that point Scott threw vanilla pudding at D.R. who then, according to Prosecutor Forrest, threw Scott onto a table. Mr. Richardson, D.P. and D.B. then assaulted Scott while he was on the table. Teachers and other students then came to Scott’s aid.
   Prosecutor Forrest declined to comment on what penalties Mr. Richardson and the three juveniles may be facing due to complexities of the case and due to differences between the sentencing of adults and juveniles.
   "This is a different type of case," Prosecutor Forrest said, noting that Mr. Richardson is slated to appear before a grand jury, at which time additional charges may be filed.
   The Board of Education unanimously voted to expell D.R. from Hillsborough High School, while suspending D.P., D.B. and Franklin Richardson for the remainder of the school year, Monday night.
   Dr. Gulick referred to the incindent as "an aberration," that will not be tolerated.