EDITOR’S NOTE: “A previous version of this article misidentified San Antonio ISD. It has been updated.”
Texas’ government schools are a hostile learning environment. Children are regularly being sexually assaulted within them.
For years, predators in the government school system have abused minors. The long list of victims continues to grow, even as lawmakers distract themselves with petty political attacks in Austin.
The latest round of scandals are coming out at a time when public trust in the state’s government school system is crumbling. “Parents don’t trust the public school system. There is a crisis there,” Joe Hyde, the publisher of San Angelo Live, said on the August 22, 2023 episode of The Luke Macias Show.
The system isn’t changing. It isn’t broken. It’s corrupt.
In January 2002, the Boston Globe began publishing its in-depth investigative series exposing the horrific and traumatic sexual abuse of minors in the Roman Catholic Church Archdiocese of Boston.
The series starts by looking deeply at the dishonored priest John Geoghan. For thirty long years, he had worked at six different parishes in the Greater Boston area. More than 130 people shared disturbing and heartbreaking stories about how he had sexually abused them.
Geoghan was convicted of child molestation. In 2003, he was murdered while in prison.
Geoghan turned out to be a feature, not a bug, of a corrupt system. The Boston Globe’s series exposed that he was one of many abusers infesting the Archdiocese of Boston at the time. In late January 2002, the Boston Globe reported that for ten years they “quietly settled” allegations of child molestation leveled against at least 70 priests.
Much worse were the reports of how the Catholic hierarchy covered up the abuses, rather than clean out the abusers.
Scores of parents had entrusted the safety and well-being of their children to the Roman Catholic Church. That trust was broken. Lives were damaged. The Archdiocese came under siege as victims sought to hold them accountable through lawsuits, with estimates that the costs to the church could reach more than $100 million.
This scandal, broken roughly 20 years ago, isn’t dissimilar to the depravity that we’ve found in Texas government schools.
Adrian Salazar is a 28-year-old salesman in San Antonio. He is a married father of two.
In an interview with Texas Scorecard, he said that roughly 20 years ago, he was repeatedly sexually abused starting around the second to third grade. The alleged abuser was then Vice-Principal Michael Alcoser at Price Elementary, which is part of South San Antonio ISD. Alcoser later became the principal of Carrillo Elementary.
Adrian said Alcoser started grooming him over time, first by inviting him to his office at the school where they would play board games. He said Alcoser would also pull him out of class at certain times of the day, telling his teacher they were going to study together.
Adrian said Alcoser got physical with him at a young age.
“It started off as like he would take my shoes off, and he would nibble my toes. Then it progressed to like kisses on my belly button area,” Adrian claimed. “He closed the door, and then we’d play games a little bit. While we play games, he’d have me sit on top of the desk near him, where he was sitting. That’s when he would do all that, while I was distracted playing the game.” He had bought Adrian a Nintendo Game Boy, which was once a popular handheld video game device.
Grooming processes are very common amongst predators, according to Commander Kevin Turner. In North Texas, he leads Tarrant County’s Human Trafficking Task Force, fully operational since 2021. “Usually it starts out very nonchalant. Just regular conversation between the two. Then as things progress, they try to lure the child to be more confident in their friendship,” he told Texas Scorecard. “At that point, that’s when they start asking them certain things.”
As time passes, the predator begins winning the confidence of the child until he or she can abuse him or her. Meanwhile, the child is confused as he or she is mentally unable to process what is happening. That’s the experience Adrian described regarding Alcoser. “I’d be shaking sometimes there in the office, kind of like nervous,” Adrian said. “[When you’re in] second, third grade, you’re kind of clueless to what that means or what that is. It felt weird, nervous, anxious. At that point, I didn’t know how to kind of name those emotions.”
Depending on the predator and the circumstances, the length of the grooming process can vary. “[It] can be as little as 10 to 15 minutes. Sometimes we’ve seen it go on for multiple months, or even longer,” Turner explained. “These individuals are master manipulators. They understand what to look for, as far as weaknesses, to prey upon with these children.”
Adrian claimed his grooming continued for years. Roughly around fifth grade, he said Alcoser tried performing oral sex on him. “That’s kind of what it progressed to, and … thankfully [he], never took it any further. But, yeah, he would do that in the offices.”
Adrian said Alcoser’s actions began wearing on him. “I was having issues sleeping at night. I was wetting the bed as an eighth grader because I had kept it in for so long … I started getting paranoid like I was always having to watch my back.”
Finally, in about 2009, Adrian talked with his youth pastor about the abuse, who then told Adrian’s uncle. His uncle then contacted Stephanie Flores, the fourth-grade teacher at Price Elementary, who was friends with Adrian’s mom. Eventually, Adrian talked with his parents. “[Flores] comes to the house crying, talks to my mom, and they come to my room,” he said. “I broke down and then that kind of just laid everything on the table. That’s the day that my parents found out, and that’s kind of the day that the process started with everything.”
His family called the police and Child Protective Services. Alcoser was arrested. In 2011, he was sentenced to 18 years in prison for “aggravated sexual assault” of a minor.
Attorney Ricardo Garcia in McAllen represented Adrian in a civil suit against the school district. He said others at the school had noticed something was wrong. “There was an occasion where the vice principal opened the door of that office, and there he is, with a boy … the socks are off … sitting in his lap behind the desk,” Garcia told Texas Scorecard. “There was an outcry by two teachers that were looking for the boy one time, and they walked into the office.”
This isn’t the first time families have turned to Garcia for help to hold government schools accountable. It also isn’t the first time where it was reported that government school employees had ignored red flags.
Garcia represented another client in a 2016 lawsuit against the Harlingen Consolidated Independent School District, located in the Rio Grande Valley. His client used the pseudonym of “John Doe.” The victim, “Sarah Doe,” was a sophomore at the district in the 2014-2015 school year. That was when the 15-year-old girl claimed she was “repeatedly sexually assaulted” by 42-year-old assistant coach and science teacher Robert Amitrani. The assaults were alleged to have taken place “at the school during school hours.”
Garcia said Amitrani would try to isolate “Sarah.” “She would visit him during lunch in the classroom, where it would be empty, or during [an] off period.” He said Amitrani would “have relations” with her in a hallway attached to the science lab.
Armitrani allegedly targeted other students as well. The Doe lawsuit claims that, “District personnel, including the principal of Harlingen South High School, were made aware of an outcry by another female student at the school that Amitrani was sexually harassing her.” The lawsuit stated the district conducted an “inadequate” investigation of this allegation. “They looked at his room and looked at his desk, and there they found his second phone … they confronted him about that,” Garcia said. He said that one of the district investigators, in a deposition, said that based on what was on Amitrani’s phone, she knew he was in an illegal relationship with “Sarah Doe.”
The phone was turned over to the school principal, who Garcia claimed didn’t act. “Once they approached the principal, the principal said we’re not in the habit of breaking up families. They didn’t do anything,” he told Texas Scorecard. “It’s kind of ridiculous to state that.”
The district allegedly “failed to notify Child Protective Services and/or the Harlingen Police Department.”
“Sarah’s” father—who worked in law enforcement—reported Amitrani’s actions to the police in July 2015. Later, Garcia said Amitrani committed suicide.
Garcia said the hardest part of this case was connecting Amitrani to the phone number contacting his client, “Sarah Doe.” He said they hired a company that helped to trace the number to a company in California that sells used phone numbers. With that information, they were able to connect Amitrani to “Sarah.” “Had the school district exerted more effort and time, they could have done that, too. But they buried it,” he said.
Texas Scorecard asked current Harlingen CISD Board President Dr. Belinda Reininger, and interim Superintendent Dr. Veronica Kortan about this case, if there have been other incidents of sexual abuse since Amitrani, how the district responds to allegations of sexual abuse, and what systems they have put in place to prevent further abuse. Assistant Superintendent Debbie Scogan replied, stating the District “emphatically denies” that “the District took no action or acted incorrectly in the situation. The District follows a thorough vetting of our candidates and ensures the safety and wellbeing of our students.” The district provided no record of actions taken.
Both cases were roughly 10 to 20 years ago. However, patterns alleged in them are showing up again today.
Fast forward to the present. Zeke Fortenberry spent nine of his 15 years as a lawyer working at the Collin County District Attorney’s Office. His specialty was sex crimes against children. He now practices civil law. On July 17, 2023, he told Texas Scorecard about a new case that seeks to hold a school district, and police department, accountable for an alleged predator preying on a child.
In a twist, he said the law breaker is not a teacher, but a police officer who worked at Frisco ISD and had an illegal relationship with a student.
“About just about a year and a half ago, there [were] some reports of a high school student who was in a sexual relationship with a Frisco school resource officer,” Fortenberry told Texas Scorecard. The officer’s name is John Hoover. “Sometime earlier this year, he pled guilty to an improper relationship between a student and a teacher, and is on felony probation currently.”
Fortenberry said the parents of the victim came to him for help to hold the school district, the police department, and Hoover accountable. Such cases are typical for him in his civil practice. “A lot of our cases have a criminal component. There’s some crime that’s being investigated and prosecuted, but we also think there’s a civil remedy available,” he explained. “We represent the victim in that civil capacity to sue someone to try to recover damages for the victim.”
In this case, Fortenberry wanted to wait until the criminal case was largely resolved before acting. “As a former prosecutor, I want the bad guy to be held criminally responsible, and I don’t want to do anything to jeopardize that.” That was when he started examining the facts of the case. According to his civil lawsuit complaint, this is another situation where those in government service knew there was a problem but did nothing.
The complaint said that Frisco ISD worked with local police departments “to provide School Resource Officers” to each of its campuses. School and city taxpayers share the burden of paying for these SROs and their equipment.
The story below is taken from the filed complaint.
It states that in June 2021, 34-year-old SRO Hoover started grooming 16-year-old “Jane Doe.” Though she attended an FISD high school, “Jane” volunteered with the Junior Police Academy (JPA) at Pearson Middle School, which is where she and Hoover met. This program was “run by Frisco PD, staffed by SROs, and held on Frisco ISD property.”
“Jane” came from a family of law enforcement officers and “trusted all cops.” Her dad was a former police officer. However, her home life was “complicated.” She had been sexually assaulted as a child, was plagued with suicidal thoughts earlier in life, and struggled to tell people no.
Hoover allegedly made “sexual jokes” with “Jane,” and began texting and calling her daily “at all hours of the day and night” from July 2021 through August 7, 2021. They allegedly spoke at least 38 times, ten times in one day with calls lasting more than two hours.
The complaint said Hoover bombed her with affection, calling her “babygirl,” saying that he cared deeply about her, complimenting her body, and explicitly told her he had a vasectomy. He also allegedly grabbed her backside “accidentally” and feared she’d tell her dad. Hoover allegedly told the girl that “he dreamed about her and wanted to tie her up and handcuff her,” and encouraged her to buy a phone so he wouldn’t worry about getting caught. He also allegedly encouraged her to move in with her mother, “because she had fewer rules at her mom’s house.”
On June 28, 2021, “Jane Doe” turned 17. “Thinking that his conduct would be legal, Defendant Hoover then began a sexual relationship with Plaintiff who was still a student in Frisco ISD,” the complaint said. “Defendant had sex with Plaintiff on three separate occasions between July 26, 2021 and August 8, 2021. During one occasion, he provided Plaintiff with a sex toy and used it on her.”
The complaint said Hoover at one point told the girl that “he was evil and sadistic.” Hoover said he “knew people … and could pass a lie detector test.” Because he was an authority figure, “Jane” felt like she couldn’t tell him no.
Hoover was arrested on August 13, 2021, after Frisco Police Sgt. Cory Kraft learned about the “improper relationship.” However, the complaint said there were many, easily observable red flags beforehand that the system failed to act on.
In the summer of 2021, “multiple Frisco ISD SROs and other employees noticed interactions between” “Jane” and Hoover that seemed “odd.” Officer Kerri Jones, the lead JPA coordinator, alleged “Jane” was hanging around Hoover “very closely,” hugging him regularly, sitting next to him at lunch in spots reserved for officers, and both of them talked by themselves in the parking lot alone.
Another officer alleged that Hoover and “Jane” regularly interacted with each other, eating breakfast and lunch together—even leaving to eat together elsewhere. This officer alleged that they “were talking to one another and near each other more so than other officers and volunteers.”
An SRO Baughman, said “Jane” massaged or scratched Hoover’s back, and they tickled each other.
More red flags flew and were ignored.
SRO T. Craig said he went with Hoover to lunch at a restaurant “Jane” worked at. He claimed they were “being very friendly with each other.”
An SRO named Crouch stated “Jane” sat with Hoover multiple times, and that they were “constantly” close together and “touched each other in ways” that Crouch believed were inappropriate. This included a time “Jane” massaged Hoover’s shoulders. Every single time Crouch allegedly saw “concerning” actions between Hoover and “Jane,” “it was always out in the open.”
The complaint said nothing was done. “For weeks during the summer of 2021, at least 7 SROs saw Plaintiff and Defendant Hoover engaged in inappropriate behavior given their student/SRO dynamic. None of these individuals reported the behavior to superiors, talked to Plaintiff or Defendant Hoover, or investigated the behavior further.”
Ignoring red flags is a common problem and hindrance in protecting students. Dr. Charol Shakeshaft of Virginia Commonwealth University has extensively studied the problem of Education Sexual Misconduct for decades. She has done a case study of more than 200 different schools where students were sexually abused by school employees. “I don’t think I’ve had a case where people didn’t see things, adults and kids saw … all sorts of red flags and all sorts of concerns, but they didn’t speak up,” she told Texas Scorecard. Shakeshaft emphasized that abuse is allowed when people don’t speak up. “Even sometimes when they do, it’s tentative, and no investigation gets done. Nobody looks into it. There’s no increased supervision. It’s not that if we did everything that we know how to do, there wouldn’t be any sexual abuse of a student. But there sure would be a lot less sexual abuse.”
The complaint said there was more bad behavior by Hoover. While at Staley Middle School, he allegedly “routinely welcomed female students into his office to get jolly ranchers. Female students started showing up late to class because they were in Defendant Hoover’s office so often.” Principal Anita Robinson allegedly saw him sitting on a step surrounded by young girls, and that he “mostly took photos” with young female athletes. She reported Hoover to Human Resources, and alerted the principal at Memorial High School when some 8th graders graduated and started attending there. The complaint said Robinson believed Hoover “didn’t get a lot of attention in the past, and really enjoyed the female attention he was getting at the school.” Julie Barrantine, Staley Middle School’s Counselor, noticed Hoover “bonded with the girls way more,” and regularly invited them to his office for candy.
The crux of the lawsuit is that the school district and City of Frisco failed to protect the students that their parents entrusted to them.
“We trust schools. We send our kids to public schools thinking they’re gonna be safe at these schools, and I think we even trust police officers more,” Fortenberry told Texas Scorecard. “These are the people we expect to protect us, not the people we expect to be predators on our children.”
In response to a request for comment, a representative for Frisco ISD told Texas Scorecard that the district “does not comment on pending litigation.”
“Because there is a pending lawsuit, I’m limited in what I can publicly discuss at this time,” stated City of Frisco Mayor Jeff Cheney. “I can assure you the City of Frisco and its Police Department have a zero-tolerance for sexual abuse by any city employee. The former Frisco police officer John Hoover, who is also a defendant to this lawsuit, was terminated and criminally prosecuted.” Cheney also said public information about Hoover’s case is available online from Denton County.
This is today. There is yet another instance of the system ignoring red flags in the past, further indicating this is a dangerous ongoing feature in government schools.
On January 16, 2013, it was widely reported that Michael Pricer turned himself into the police. He was a former Denton ISD choir director at Guyer High School and a married man. He was arrested for an alleged “improper relationship” between a student and an educator. He later pled guilty and was sentenced to ten years probation, with 30 days in jail, and a $1,000 fine. He was forced to surrender his teaching license and will never work around minors again.
This was a small comfort to Dennis and Linda Mason, and their daughter: “Jane Doe.”
As with the previous cases discussed, this was another case where the government school system allegedly failed to protect a child the family entrusted to their care. The damage here was far worse. According to a lawsuit complaint, the Mason’s daughter was infected with the sexually transmitted disease Human papillomavirus (also known as HPV). Specifically, the strain that causes cervical cancer and infertility in women.
So distraught were the Masons and frustrated by Denton ISD’s failure to protect their daughter, that they enlisted the help of attorney Andrew Christman. In March 2013, they sued the district, Pricer, the principal of Guyer High School (Barbara Fischer), and the district assistant superintendent (Jamie Wilson) in a quest to hold the system accountable.
“I guess the thing I was the most shocked about is how many times there were warning signs to school officials with zero activity, zero investigation,” Christman told Texas Scorecard. “The grooming process between this teacher and this child went on and on for a very long time until it culminated in a sexual affair that resulted in my client contracting HPV from this guy.”
The Mason’s complaint laid out their claim of how Pricer allegedly groomed and had sex with their daughter multiple times, and gave her HPV.
On March 5, 2011, Pricer allegedly took the Masons’ daughter alone to McKenna Park in Denton, talked with her, and caressed her face. During spring break of 2011, they both were part of the Denton choir’s trip to Ireland. Allegedly, others saw his pursuit of “Jane.” “During this trip, students and chaperones noticed Pricer’s efforts at physical contact with Doe and his attempts to separate Doe from his other potential targets,” the complaint states. “Pricer openly showed his affection for Doe by holding her hand while strolling the city streets, allowing Doe to snuggle with him, and purchasing a necklace for Doe, which Doe wore throughout the entire trip.”
The complaint said no school official or chaperone reported Pricer’s “openly predatory behavior.” After returning from Ireland, on March 21, 2011, Pricer kissed “Jane” at Eureka Park. She later told a classmate of hers, who reported the incident to Principal Barbara Fischer and even showed her the text message from “Jane” admitting they had kissed.
In December 2012, Principal Fischer received a “Principal of the Year” award. In 1996, the U.S. Dept. of Education selected Denton ISD’s Strickland Middle School as a “Blue Ribbon School,” where Fischer was the principal. Former Texas Education Agency Commissioner Mike Moses commended Fischer on her “commitment and the dedication and devotion of your staff, parents, and community members to excellence in education for all students …”
The Mason’s complaint said Fischer confronted Pricer on March 23, 2011, and he denied having an “inappropriate relationship” with “Jane.” She then told Pricer to “not appear to be favoring any students” and “not to be alone with Doe, a directive that he promptly ignored.” Fischer then called Linda Mason, said there was a rumor that “Jane” and Pricer had kissed, and she was going to ask “Jane” about it. She did not tell Linda Mason about the text message. Mason replied that if there was anything to the rumors, she and her husband wanted to know.
Dr. Shakeshaft told Texas Scorecard that, in her experience examining Educator Sexual Misconduct, cover ups by authorities in schools does happen, but it isn’t common. “More common is just the failure to supervise; the failure to investigate; the failure to follow up; the failure to take things seriously, rather than actually, absolutely knowing for sure that this was sexual abuse of a student, and consciously covering it up.”
That same day, Pricer allegedly sent the following message to “Jane:”
“Hey, I hope you are holding up okay. I talked with Mrs. Fischer this morning (and by the time you get this you probably did too) and she is not concerned about us at least that is what she told me. We are going to have to be extremely careful for a while! People will be watching us, so know that I will be using every acting bone in my body to put on a good show. But you know how I feel! Where I want to be! Stay strong and trust no one! Unfortunately that includes TD. Wait for me! IML!”
“IML” is sign language for “I love you.”
The complaint said that “Jane” denied any inappropriate relationship with Pricer. Fischer never asked “Jane” or Pricer to view their text messages with each other. “Moreover, no school official ever sought the production of the text messages from either Doe or Pricer at any time, despite the rumors, warning signs, and admissions that communications were ongoing via text message.” Fischer told Linda Mason later “she had looked into it and that there wasn’t anything to the rumor.”
Pricer’s pursuit of “Jane” continued, and that she had told Fischer and a Denton ISD counselor that she was communicating and meeting privately with him regularly.
On May 14, 2011, Pricer and “Jane” went camping and he took her virginity; and afterwards they had sexual intercourse multiple times. Allegedly, fellow students became so alarmed they complained to their parents, with two parents echoing the complaint themselves. The complaint notes one parent contacted Principal Fischer, and another submitted a written complaint to then Denton ISD Asst. Superintendent Jamie Wilson. Wilson is currently Denton ISD’s Superintendent.
Pricer again denied everything, and Fischer simply told him to “stay away,” not to text students, not to allow students to come to his room on their “off time,” and not to hug or touch any student. “At no time did Fischer ever alert any other authorities, nor did she investigate the matter any further than just asking Pricer what was going on,” the complaint stated.
In June 2011, after “Jane” graduated from Guyer High School, a student allegedly saw Pricer’s car at the Mason’s house all summer. The complaint said parents Dennis and Linda Mason were unaware he was there.
Around 3 p.m. on September 30, 2011, a parent who lives across the street from the Masons told Fischer that Pricer’s car was at the Mason household. In response, the complaint said Fischer had Asst. Principal Gene Terronez drive by the Mason’s house, and he saw Pricer in the Mason’s garage on his phone. “Amazingly, school officials made no report to the authorities, no report to the Masons, or any report to anyone!” the complaint claimed. Rather, it is alleged that the next Monday, Pricer left a resignation letter on Fischer’s desk. “In an effort to avoid the messy publicity and scandal, Denton ISD allowed Pricer to quietly proceed to the Irving Independent School District to continue his predatory practices on other unsuspecting children.”
Christman says there was “no question” that had Pricer not been exposed, he likely would be working in education today, targeting other students. “His behavior became more and more emboldened.”
On July 4, 2012, after Pricer had lied repeatedly about leaving his wife, the complaint said “Jane” talked with her parents. They reported Pricer to Denton ISD, and then the district contacted law enforcement. Shortly thereafter, the Mason’s learned their daughter had HPV.
In recent times, some have claimed that these illegal relationships cause no damage. That does not mirror the scene Christman witnessed when the Mason’s came to him for help. “Shattered, probably is the best way to say it,” he said when describing their emotional state. “When they came to my office, they were an absolute wreck. They were in shambles. Dad is furious beyond any recognition … her mother was crushed, and depressed. The child just sat in my conference room chair with her feet in the chair, sobbing for the entire time that she was in my office.”
Tragically, the damage lingered. “It never got better. We actually resolved that case, in my opinion, earlier than I wanted to … because this was such a brutal process for this child to go through,” Christman said. “The prospect of going through a trial and testifying in front of a jury, it was too much for this family. It’s almost like justice was not fully realized because of the toll that it takes on a family that goes through a crisis like this.”
Texas Scorecard asked school board President Mia Price, who has been in office since 2001, and now-Superintendent Jamie Wilson for comment.
Julie Zwahr, Denton ISD’s Chief Communications Officer replied on their behalf, placing blame on the family for the District’s inaction:
“Regarding the case you referenced, the district cannot discuss many specifics. However, it is important to note our investigation revealed that school officials reached out to family members on more than one occasion to communicate concerns regarding the employee and their daughter. The family repeatedly directed school leaders the employee was a family friend from church, and in fact, asked school officials to refrain from communicating with them regarding this employee and their child. Based on the information, the district reported the individual to the State Board for Educator Certification (SBEC). Because after the student graduated from high school, school officials were made aware that the former student admitted to family members that the school’s concerns were in fact valid.”
Since 2022, the state’s government schools appear to be a target rich environment for predators.
That’s when North Texas parents sued Prosper Independent School District. The lawsuit alleged the school district tried to hush up the more than 100 incidents of sexual abuse of two girls, ages 5 and 7 at the time, by their school bus driver—Frank Paniagua. He had been arrested in May. He jumped from a second floor while in jail and died from his injuries.
Then in January 2023, Prosper ISD Board President Drew Wilborn was arrested for alleged indecency with a child. The minor in question was not a Prosper ISD student.
Down south in July, a girls’ basketball and track coach from Lasara ISD was arrested for allegedly trying to meet a 15-year-old girl in Houston.
That same month, two teachers from two separate government schools were also arrested. In East Texas, former Nacogdoches ISD teacher Annaleigh Andrews—who had resigned earlier in July before officials learned about allegations against her—was arrested and charged with a dozen felonies. These include child sex trafficking, sexual assault of a child, and an improper relationship between a student and an educator. South of Dallas, a Red Oak ISD teacher and coach was arrested and charged with three first-degree felonies. Those include aggravated sexual assault of a child, trafficking a child to engage in sexual conduct, and compelling prostitution by a minor.
As recently as September 5, 2023, a former substitute teacher of Arlington ISD was arrested and charged with three counts of improper relationship between educator and student—forcible rape and two counts of indecency with a child by sexual contact. All are second-degree felonies punishable by two to 20 years in prison.
This is a system-wide problem. According to David McClelland, former chief of staff for Republican Tarrant County Sheriff Bill Waybourn, it appears to have steadily been getting worse. “Four or five years ago, the cases in Texas of teachers and administrators having improper contacts with children almost doubled. It went up like 44 percent from the previous year,” he told Texas Scorecard. Starting in 2017, he served under Waybourn for five years and helped set up the county’s Human Trafficking Task Force. “You’re literally talking about the people that are supposed to be mentors and helping shape children, and what they’re doing is they’re just looking to take advantage of children.”
Just as with the Archdiocese of Boston scandal, there are multiple reports that Texas government schools have engaged in cover-ups, rather than clean-ups.
That’s the charge leveled at Prosper ISD Superintendent Holly Ferguson. The district was supposed to have the Paniagua situation investigated. To date, evidence is scant that any such investigation has taken place.
Then there’s Mansfield ISD, also in North Texas. In February 2023, special education aide Diego Barona was arrested and charged with sexual assault of a child under 17. Parents say that rather than engage in transparency, the government school engaged in what can best be described as “trickle-truth.”
“We received a text message from the district saying that a teacher had been fired, and that was all the detailed information,” Mansfield mom Myra Castles told Texas Scorecard. She felt this was not sufficient transparency. “How can we talk to our children about this to find out if there’s more victims?” she said. “I wanted to be able to speak to my child about who this person was in case they had contact with him.”
Castles conducted her investigation and was able to determine the teacher’s identity and what the charges were. After that, she made her findings public. “I’ve had several staff members that worked directly with him reach out to me, and parents of students that had direct contact with him. None of them were notified until I released the information.”
While Castles says the district appears to have course corrected, the same can’t be said for all of Texas’ government schools.
For this article, Texas Scorecard reviewed multiple court case filings. In each of these cases, either the parent or the victim used the pseudonym of “John Doe” or “Jane Doe.”
- Jane Doe, and Dennis and Linda Mason v. Denton Independent School District, Jame Wilson, Barbara Fischer, and Michael Pricer (Filed March 2013)
- John Doe v. Harlingen Consolidated Independent School District (Filed March 2016)
- Jane Doe vs. Frisco Independent School District, Frisco Police Department, and John Hoover (Filed July 24 2023)
This article contains highlights from these documents, but only to introduce the information contained in these filings. Part three of this series will examine the resolution for all but the Frisco ISD case, which was filed in July 2023. Citizens wishing to conduct a deep dive should click the links above.
In Part 2, Texas Scorecard will review documentation of how predators in government schools have been a growing concern, and review a statewide parents’ investigation of a system that is failing to protect their children.