KIRTLAND — A 16-year-old Kirtland Central High School student was arrested Monday for his alleged involvement in a sex act that occurred on a school bus after a junior varsity baseball game.

The teen, of Waterflow, is accused of holding another teen's legs while making thrusting movements with his groin. The act is part of an ongoing "rape game" that has occurred among participants on the football, baseball and wrestling teams, players told Head Coach James Belveal, according to the police report.

"What the high school kids told the coach was that this is a rape game, or game rape," said San Juan County Undersheriff Mark McCloskey. "The kids have said this happens, that it has been happening for years on the various athletic teams."

Belveal contacted the Sheriff's Office's school resource officer to file a complaint after a 15-year-old player riding on the bus told him of the incident in which the suspect's groin came in contact with the victim's leg and hip area. A third player allegedly tried to intervene during the incident and the suspect attempted to do the same thing to him, McCloskey said.

"The kids actually refer to it as a simulated rape," he said. "That's where it got its name."

The teen is charged with criminal sexual contact of a minor, a fourth-degree felony, McCloskey said. He was booked at the Juvenile Detention Center, where a hold was placed on him because of an unrelated 2008 charge.

"The hold was placed because of a counterfeiting incident last year on school campus," the undersheriff said. "Basically, he violated the conditions of his previous release."

The Daily Times chose not to name the teen because he is a minor and because other teens might be involved in the practice.

The teen's involvement in the incidents likely began years ago, McCloskey said. The suspect told the Sheriff's Office that the same act was done to him when he was in the eighth grade.

"I don't know how frequently it occurred, or how many individuals are involved," McCloskey said. "It seemed to be a fairly widely known occurrence for the boys high school athletic teams."

Following the arrest, the suspect was suspended from Kirtland Central High School for nine days, Principal Michael Thornton said. The school is not seeking long-term suspension, but instead is allowing the felony charge to act as the penalty.

"We're consulting our handbook about the nature of the offense," Thornton said. "It was a sexual harassment incident, so we're not going with assault. The student is being punished. He's being made aware of the complete unacceptability of that behavior and that we won't stand for it. We want to make the punishment fit the offense."

Thornton called the incident significant, but acknowledged teens often think of sex acts as normal horseplay.

"The adults are communicating that it is not horseplay," he said. "What he did probably took 15 seconds, but he's certainly thinking about it now. He's dealing with the consequences. Hopefully that will send a strong message."

Central Consolidated School District administrators talked to the alleged victim and his parents to offer counseling or other services, Thornton said.

Interim Superintendent Bill Noland said he was pleased with the way the high school handled the incident.

"They were very aggressive in dealing with this," he said. "Authorities were called in and it was investigated."

The district has launched its own investigation into the incident and is taking steps to ensure it doesn't happen again.

"We do not condone this practice, this act," Noland said. "We do not want to subject students to this. It's not going to happen. We'll put an end to this."

Monday's arrest was the first made for the ongoing sex acts, McCloskey said. He did not have information about other high school athletic teams involved or how frequently it occurs.

"This is the first report that we are aware of," he said. "In talking with school officials, this is the first time they were made aware of that kind of thing happening."

Thornton said he was not aware of the rape game occurring among high school

athletes, but the school will continue to enforce efforts to curb the practice.

"It's not something the kids would advertise," he said. "We're continuing to ask questions and if anything else occurs to require further action, we will not shrink from performing every appropriate action."

Alysa Landry:

alandry@daily-times.com