Prosper Independent School District responded Wednesday to a civil lawsuit that claims school officials failed to protect two little girls from months of sexual abuse by a district employee.
The lawsuit filed August 25 by the girls’ family alleges the district and its administrators were negligent and “willfully indifferent” in allowing bus driver Frank Paniagua to sexually assault their daughters for most of the 2021-2022 school year.
Prosper ISD’s answer to the lawsuit claims the district isn’t responsible due to governmental immunity, among other defenses asserted.
It also says the district “contacted parents of other children who rode in the elementary school bus route that Paniagua drove during that year” after he was arrested on May 10 and charged with continuous sexual abuse of a child.
Yet multiple parents whose children rode Paniagua’s bus last year and in prior years say news reports about the lawsuit were the first they heard about their kids being exposed to an accused child molester.
Attorneys say Prosper ISD’s answer is unusual in that it addresses factual details about the case. These documents typically contain just a general denial and affirmative defenses.
“To me, the district’s answer reads more like a press release and bid to get ‘their side’ of the story out,” Kristin Hecker, an attorney representing the family suing Prosper ISD, told Texas Scorecard. “But one thing that’s been consistent throughout is the district’s attempt to evade responsibility and keep up its public image.”
The lawsuit claims Superintendent Holly Ferguson told the girls’ mother to keep quiet about the abuse “so as not to attract media attention to her family or Prosper ISD staff.”
The district denies that claim, but Prosper ISD officials covered up the sex abuse scandal until the lawsuit became public.
Since learning of the allegations and cover-up, parents have repeatedly called on Ferguson to resign or be fired, most recently at a protest held Monday.