Seven male students from the varsity football, basketball and baseball teams of La Vernia High School were arrested Thursday and charged with sexual assault of at least ten students. According to some reports the arrests involved hazing allegations that occurred in the boy’s athletic locker room. More victims have come forward in the small community (population 1200) 30 miles southeast of San Antonio, Texas.
A mother, who asked not to be identified, of one of the victims contacted NEWS LEGIT’s Jack Dennis Friday “because I don’t want these punks to get away with this. They held (her son) down, ridiculed him. They tortured him like he was an animal. They stuck things up his butt. These bastards had been doing it to others too. It was like a game. I can’t tell you how hurt we are. He will never be the same. It was senseless. Where were the coaches? It was a mob attack.”
Some discussions have indicated the investigation into the hazing and sexual assault may be going back to previous years. La Vernia Police Sergeant Donald Keil indicated there may likely be more arrests, but the current emphasis is to take care of the known victims and help others. He is asking for any parents of other victims to contact him at (830) 779-2113 or send him an email at dkeillvpd@lavernia-TX.gov.
…current emphasis is to take care of the known victims and help others.
“Being able to give them those immediate resources that are available for them to start this healing process and we have those resources ready for them so they can visit if they come forward,” Kiel told one reporter.
One source close to the investigation, who asked to remain anonymous told NEWS LEGIT that “I will say this… people are speculating that all of this happened at the school and that is not necessarily true.”
“Until the investigation is complete and more information can be shared, people really need to refrain from making assumptions and speculations,” the source said. “There’s a lot of finger pointing and accusations about who is responsible. Those things are all very irresponsible actions.”
La Vernia ISD Superintendent Dr. Moreno confirmed “that we are all under strict guidelines from the authorities not to discuss any information as the investigation continues.”
Dr. Moreno sent out a letter Thursday:
Dear La Vernia Parents and Community, A complaint was filed in reference to High School Boys’ Athletics. The District is aware of the complaint and is fully cooperating with the authorities as they conduct a thorough investigation. The District is under strict guidelines and is not able to comment on the complaint at this time. Rest assured that every precautionary measure has been taken to ensure that our students are supervised and safe. If you have any questions, please contact the La Vernia Police Department at 830-779-4541.
“an outcry of hazing involving high school student athletes”
Some of the victims had a forensic interview with representatives and counselors from the Children’s Alliance of South Texas (CAST) based out of nearby Floresville, Texas. One of the primary goals of the interviews is to reduce the number of times each victim has to tell his story of their abuse.
Police say they received “an outcry of hazing involving high school student athletes” several weeks ago. After the interviews, investigators determined “crime had been committed.”
“A forensic interview is a structured conversation with a child intended to elicit detailed information about a possible event(s) that the child may have experienced or witnessed,” CAST informs. “A recording of the interview with the child is made available to agencies involved, thus reducing the number of times the child must retell the story. We do not want a child to relive their trauma each time.”
After the interviews, a Child Protective Service investigator or law enforcement investigator helped each victim what to expect during the next stage of the investigative process. A Family Advocate is assigned to remain in contact and follow-up to continue support for the child and parents through the investigative process.
CAST suggests parents and loved ones of the victims should:
- Follow their lead. If they don’t bring up the interview, you don’t need to talk about it.
- Be careful not to interrogate (quiz or question) your child about the interview or abuse. A child who has experienced abuse may not want to disclose the details of that abuse to a parent no matter how well intentioned that parent is. Any questions you have may be asked of your Family Advocate, the CPS investigator or law enforcement investigator.
- Do let your child know that talking with the interviewer was the right thing to do and acknowledge the courage it took to do so.
- It is very important that your child be allowed to express his/her feelings. Spending special time with your child may help them share his/her feelings and thoughts with you.
- Be calm and supportive. It may be difficult to listen to what your child has to say, but your child needs to talk to someone who will believe and support him or her. Don’t share your feelings of frustration or helplessness with your child thereby overwhelming them with your emotions. If you need support, please reach out to your Family Advocate or a trusted friend or family member.
- Do not lead your child to believe that the interview is the only part of the legal process in which they are involved. It is possible that your child will be interviewed again or asked to testify in court. Explain to your child (in an age-appropriate way) what the investigative (and possibly prosecution) process will entail. The professionals involved, and Advocacy Center Staff, can help you do this.
CAST defines sexual abuse as “sexual contact, sexual intercourse, or sexual conduct, as those terms are defined by law, including: sexual penetration with a foreign object, incest, sexual assault, or sodomy, inflicted on, shown to, or intentionally practiced in the presence of a child to arouse or gratify the sexual desires of any person. It is the failure to make a reasonable effort to prevent sexual contact, sexual intercourse, or sexual conduct, as those terms are defined by law: sexual penetration with a foreign object, incest, sexual assault, or sodomy, inflicted on, shown to, or intentionally practiced in the presence of a child to arouse or gratify the sexual desires of any person. This includes compelling or encouraging the child to engage in sexual conduct as defined by law.”
Local news outlets are reporting that a mother of a victim described the sexual assault on her son:
“Kids were holding them down in the locker rooms, there was a lookout at the door watching for coaches not to come. They hold them down and stick various items up their rectum… including coke bottles, deodorant bottles, steel pipes, baseball bats and broom sticks.”
According to a statement from La Vernia Police Chief Bruce Ritchey and Sergeant Keil, the suspects were “magistrated and processed by the Wilson County Juvenile Probation Office.”
The next scheduled LVISD School Board Meeting is scheduled for April 3, 2017 at 6:30 pm at 500 Building, La Vernia High School.
The Texas Child Abuse Hotline is 1-800-252-5400
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