Contrary to claims made by Prosper Independent School District officials in the wake of a sex abuse cover-up scandal, parents say they were never told their elementary school children rode a bus with a driver accused of sexually abusing two little girls for almost the entire 2021-2022 school year.
Multiple moms say they had to hear about the sex abuse allegations in news reports about an August 25 lawsuit filed by the girls’ family, or from social media.
Now, more than two weeks after the sex abuse scandal became public, parents say the district still hasn’t contacted them to offer any explanations, apologies, or assistance for their potentially exposed children.
The district’s initial response to the publicity—which was repeated by the board in a “prepared statement” on August 29—was that Superintendent Holly Ferguson and other Prosper ISD administrators “took swift action upon receiving a complaint,” and these actions included “communications with law enforcement officials, CPS, and parents in the district.”
Parents say that is false.
“No one ever called me or emailed me,” said one Prosper ISD mom whose child rode ‘Mr. Frank’s’ bus last year. “The first I head of it was on the news.”
NOTE: A number of parents whose students rode the bus driven by accused molester Frank Paniagua shared their stories with Texas Scorecard on condition that we protect their children by not revealing their names.
“It is unacceptable that they still haven’t contacted us,” she added. “It’s obvious to me they care more about their positions than the kids.”
Several moms say they were notified of an “incident” on the bus, but they were given no details despite repeated requests for more information. Some also received a call or email saying the bus driver was being replaced.
More troubling, another mom confirmed her child was interviewed about the incident without her permission.
She said after being notified by phone that there would be a new bus driver, she received a call from the school saying CPS (Child Protective Services) was interviewing her child “with permission from the school” about “an incident on the bus.”
She was not given an opportunity to be present at the interview. CPS told the mom they couldn’t give her more details, to protect the privacy of the “Janie Doe” victims named in the lawsuit.
“It’s okay for the district to protect the identity of those girls, but who was going to protect my child?” she said.
According to another mom, the principal called to say CPS might interview kids about a situation with a bus driver or on a bus, but again did not disclose what had happened.
“We heard of kid stuff happening on buses, but this is something major that happened throughout the year,” she said. “What else is going on that they’re not telling us?”
She said the principal is the one who called the parents. “She had the opportunity to step up and speak out. She would have been a hero. Instead, she decided to cover up to protect the district.”
“What values are you teaching my kids?” she added. “The kids are the ones who are vulnerable.”
“Trust is broken, especially with Ms. Balderas and Holly Ferguson,” said the mom whose child was interviewed by CPS without her permission.
They have to protect all the kids, not just these two. They should have reached out to the parents whose kids rode the bus about how to talk to kids about the incident. It’s important to take action with kids to see if something happened.
Marisol Balderas is the principal of Rucker Elementary, the school attended by the affected students. About 25 students were in a special program at the school; a dozen or so rode Paniagua’s bus to and/or from school on various days.
One parent noted Paniagua’s bus route was larger in 2020-2021, meaning even more students were exposed and presumably have also not been contacted.
Any physical evidence of older crimes is likely gone. Sources say the district keeps only 30 days of bus surveillance video. They also note Paniagua had access to controls for both the video system and the app used to track the locations of buses while on their routes.
Some of the kids reportedly said that Paniagua wanted to help all of the girls with their seat belts (his alleged pretext for approaching his victims), but not the boys.
A mom who has spoken with several others since news of the scandal broke said they want three things: help for their kids to know if anything happened to them, answers to how this happened, and changes to protect the safety of kids going forward.
“They haven’t offered any kind of help,” she said. “They don’t care about the kids.”
“They knew since May 9, but we’ve gotten only silence,” she added. “We need a deep cleaning in this district and people with morals. We want justice—to learn from this and be better. Nothing else will satisfy us.”
“Things can happen, but you have to tell us,” she added.
“That was the mistake,” added another mom. “They protected their jobs, not the kids.”
With the community behind them, these moms are united. “They can’t go against all of us.”
Prosper ISD families started a petition to the school board demanding specific actions during a special meeting on Tuesday, September 13, at 8:00 a.m.
Concerned community members can contact their elected Prosper ISD school board trustees with any questions or to request they take action.
This is a developing story. Read Texas Scorecard’s coverage of the Prosper ISD scandal here: