Citizens have picked themselves up and are marching forward
School district moves into action with new focus, practices and safety updates
La Vernia, the friendly community 30 minutes southeast of San Antonio, Texas, looks to be recovering strong. A series of disgraceful misdeeds and corruption that plagued the citizenry the past five years reached a shocking peak last school year with a boy’s athletics sexual assault scandal.
Last Friday night, things were different. Each member of the Varsity football team signed a banner on the wall of their locker room with the inscription “Then I heard the Voice of the LORD saying, “Whom Shall I Send? And who will go for us? And I said, ‘HERE I AM. SEND ME!’ Isiah 6:8.” The crowd of fans at Bear Stadium were enthusiastic and spirited.
Although the La Vernia Bears were able to score in the first and fourth quarters, in the end their first game of the season was lost to the Wimberley Texans 49-13.
As in many matters of life, the people of La Vernia and Wilson County continue to pick themselves up and march forward. Citizens stepped up immediately when their historical 1887 United Methodist Church chapel had part of its roof torn off from Hurricane Harvey winds last week. When Youth Director Phillip Higginbotham discovered the damages, he notified other church members who soon sprang into action to save antique furnishings, hymnals and other items to safety. A GoFundMe drive has been set up to help with recovery costs.
Progress has been on the construction of La Vernia Veterans Memorial at City Park. A “Guns & Diamonds Raffle” is offering $50 tickets for the a chance to win a Golden Boy Henry .22 Lever Action rifle, American Classic 1911 .45 pistol, Colt Expanse M4 5.56 rifle, Remington 700 SPS .308 black rifle, or one of four designer diamond rings, pendant, or necklace. The raffle drawing takes place Saturday, September 16th at 7 p.m. at The Den restaurant at 484 Blue Bonnet in La Vernia.
“We are planting the seeds to our program. The fruit of our labor will come.” — Coach Chris Taber
New Head Coach Chris Taber started the season with the loss of all the former student athletes who did not return to school this year because of the scandal. In all, 13 students were arrested last spring. On May 6, Boys Athletic Director Brandon Layne left LVISD to coach at Ferris ISD near Dallas.
Taber has changed the Bear offense from a tight set to a more spread out formation with more receivers going wide. As any good coach would do, Taber will learn from the game and adjust to help the boys understand technique and teamwork. During the summer Assistant Basketball Coach Scott Grubb acted as interim head football coach.
“We are planting the seeds to our program,” Coach Taber said. “The fruit of our labor will come.”
NEW SCHOOL PROGRAMS
LVISD Superintendent Dr. José H. Moreno informed parents, students and teachers prior to the school year of some changes and new programs implemented for the 2017-2018 term which began August 23.
—The district has a restored 24-hour online bully reporting system that students can access with their cellphones.
—Officials also adopted a program called “Rachel’s Challenge,” teaching students about kindness.
—The Student Code of Conduct has been updated.
—An additional school counselor has been hired.
—School buses are being outfitted with new cameras and two-way radio systems.
—A well-known and respected veteran of the La Vernia Police Department now patrols the high school campus each day.
The school district hired the law firm of Walsh Gallegos Trevino Russo & Kyle P.C. to take “an active role helping us navigate through the litigation process and ensuring we are in compliance with all laws,” Moreno stated. The firm offers guide books of best practices for education legal concerns.
The lawsuit against the District was filed in federal court on April 11, 2017 by parents a La Vernia rape victim seeking monetary damages after 10 students were arrested on widespread sexual hazing charges regarding the boy’s high school athletic program. Later, three more students were charged. The suit indicated the “hazing rituals and traditions are a form of bullying and have been part of the culture of the School’s football team for at least a decade, according to news accounts, and possibly longer.”
“The teams’ coaches have sanctioned these rituals, while other school officials, including La Vernia ISD and the School’s principal, athletic director, and coaches, turned a blind eye toward the abuse, even after the abuse was reported to them.”
“Indeed, the Plaintiffs are but a fraction of the students who have been physically and sexually assaulted pursuant to these sadistic hazing rituals which include rape, sodomy, unlawful sexual penetration, and sexual abuse. In addition to seeking damages to compensate Plaintiffs for their psychological injuries, CHILD DOE, who still attends the School, also seek injunctive relief that will put an end to the hazing rituals, so that neither they nor future members of the School’s football team will be subjected to the same abuses Plaintiffs have suffered.”
On April 27, 2017 official court summons were issued to the La Vernia ISD, Jose H. Moreno, Superintendent; Kristen Martin, High School Principal; Brandon Layne, Former Athletic Director and Head Coach now living in Ferris, Texas; Richard Hinojosa, Athletic Director; Chris Taber, Athletic Director; Scott Grub, Head Coach; and Keith Barnes, Coach.
The defendants were listed as Jane and John Doe, “Individually and as Next Friends of Child Doe, A Minor.” They were represented by their attorney John Kemmerer Ivey of the Ivey Law Firm.
Dr. Moreno and the school district were represented by attorneys Katie E. Payne and Donald Craig Wood from the Walsh Gallegos Trevino Russo & Kyle P.C.
Clay T. Grover of Rogers, Morris & Grover, LLP were listed as representing Martin, Layne, Hinojosa, Taber, Grub and Barnes.