5 Texas Christian school officials under fire for hiding locker room sex assault of student
Trigger Warning: Article contains content related to sexual assault
MIDLAND, TEXAS: Five officials in Texas' Midland Christian School are facing felony charges for failing to notify authorities after a ninth-grader was allegedly sexually assaulted by an older student in a locker room around January 20. In an arrest warrant affidavit, the three administrators and two athletic coaches at the school were identified as Superintendent Jared Owen Lee, secondary school Principal Dana Elizabeth Ellis, athletic director Gregory Neal McClendon, assistant secondary school principal Matthew David Counts, and baseball coach Barry Lee Russell.
The attack, which took place in January, involved a brutal sexual assault on a ninth-grader by an older student. A detective with the Midland Police Department was notified on January 28 about a “possible sexual assault of a child” that had taken place eight days ago after baseball practice at the school. The unnamed victim told authorities that he had entered the locker room to change when the lights went off. A 10th-grader started hitting him as someone said it was “freshman initiation day". His hands were then pinned down and he was flipped over onto his back, the affidavit, obtained by The Daily Beast, claims. As some students cheered, he was sexually assaulted with a baseball bat.
The student reported the attack to school officials the next day, but no actions were taken. Police investigators spoke to the school principal, Ellis, she claimed that she was aware of the incident and it was documented, but only Lee, the school superintendent, had access to the files. Upon learning about the incident, Lee reportedly ordered McClendon and Counts to “conduct an ‘investigation’ into the incident instead of notifying law enforcement or another state agency,” the affidavit states.
Lee contacted police on February 14 but refused to cooperate and demanded that a search warrant be brought, which was granted and executed the same day. Investigators were subsequently given access to “notes” written by McClendon and Counts, documenting the incident. Police reviewed emails between all of five and found that “it was made very clear that a sexual assault had occurred, and the school had a duty to report,” the affidavit states, adding that “there were multiple emails exchanged,” and that “several of the administrators refused to report the incident.” All five were arrested on Wednesday, February 16, and released on $5,000 bond. On Thursday, February 17, a student involved in the alleged attack was also arrested.
“Our school officials have, and will continue to, cooperate with law enforcement and their investigation,” the president of Midland Christian’s board of trustees told the Reporter-Telegram in a statement. “Currently, we have qualified acting administrators to supervise the campus, oversee student activities, support faculty, and maintain the day-to-day operation of the school. The physical, spiritual, and emotional safety of our students is the most important responsibility we bear as educators and one we take seriously. We appreciate the support and prayers of our Midland Christian parents, faculty, staff, and students as we continue leading, building, and equipping for Christ.”