The Plainview Independent School District wants to move on from the incident that roiled the community and its school board meetings last spring; but Isabella, age 6, can’t.
She’s the victim of an unthinkable sexual assault—by another 6-year-old—that took place in an elementary school classroom, with the teacher nearby. It was filmed on a school iPad by a second assailant. Isabella’s family continues to be stonewalled by the district.
Meanwhile, though Isabella (not her real name) is now in a new school and away from the perpetrators, she’s still suffering the effects of the assault. She has regressed; her grandmother reports the little girl has had issues with bedwetting and fear of boys and big men.
“They won’t tell us anything,” said her grandmother, Esther, who is raising the girl. “Any facts we have found, we dug up ourselves. The school has been protecting its own. Here’s what I know: The district has changed its story time and time again. My granddaughter has never changed her story once. ”
Parent empowerment isn’t just about educational savings accounts—though that’s a key pillar of it. Parent empowerment is also about respect for parents. Plainview ISD’s rush to cover up the sexual assault of a little girl in a classroom, with a teacher nearby, is precisely why families are demanding transparency, accountability—and to be treated as if they’re in charge of their child’s upbringing, not a nuisance to be put off.
The public school establishment that’s fighting so hard against parent empowerment only makes the case for it stronger by lying to parents and covering up crimes.
Esther says the school called her a few days after the incident (not the day-of, as the district has claimed). South Elementary School’s principal called, but wouldn’t give any details.
“They made it sound like some kids had gotten onto a website they shouldn’t,” Ester says. “But also, they said they turned it over to CPS and to law enforcement—but they wouldn’t tell us anything more.”
Determined to learn more about the incident—not yet knowing it involved the sexual assault of her granddaughter—Esther and her sister stopped by the principal’s office when they picked Isabella up from school that Friday. That’s when Isabella started acting strangely.
“She was nervous, she was ready to leave; she started saying she was sleepy, she’s hungry, things like that,” Esther said. “Clearly she was scared. When I asked her why, she said, ‘I already said everything I know, I told the officer.’”
This was the first the family had heard about a police officer.
Esther knew something was very, very wrong. Slowly, the truth emerged. On April 19, Isabella was at a table with a group of students, while the teacher was distracted. Isabella was coloring on her iPad. She was pulled under the table by a boy who demanded that she put his private part in her mouth. According to Isabella and other children at the table, Esther says, he threatened her. The boy then handed his iPad to another boy and told him to film it. He then did exactly what he said he would do; only after that was Isabella let up.
The district initially released a statement (only available on its mobile app) that seriously downplayed what happened. There was an “inappropriate video” discovered on a school device—that’s all the district would admit. When parents—including Esther and other community members showed up at a board meeting to speak out about the incident, they were dragged out of the meeting by cops. That’s here in Texas—not New York or Virginia.
School district officials think they’re the victims here.
That’s why the district is so adamant that “a sexual assault did not occur,” that it was something that happened by “mutual consent.” As Esther points out, a 6-year-old cannot legally consent to sex. But even that part’s a lie from the district; other children at the table heard the coercion. This also lets the district off the hook for victim services, Ester says—Isabella is in counseling now, but the district won’t pay for it.
My heart breaks when I hear a story like Isabella’s. But it also reminds me why we’re fighting so hard for parent empowerment. Because as Plainview ISD is so helpfully demonstrating now, if it’s a choice between protecting children and covering for bureaucrats, we know which choice the educational establishment will make.