UPDATE: La Vernia ISD school board withdraws appeal, will release documents
UPDATE on Tuesday, July 18, 2017: The superintendent of La Vernia ISD now says the district will reverse its course and release documents to the News 4 Trouble Shooters. When those documents are released, we will provide an update.
See the statement from superintendent, Dr. Jose Moreno, below:
La Vernia ISD is not proceeding with appealing the Texas Attorney General's opinion and strongly believes in transparency but also has a responsibility to protect information that is not public.
A standard appeal was filed on July 13, 2017 (to stay within the 10-day deadline to respond) before a scheduled School Board meeting on July 17, 2017. Following the meeting, the Superintendent directed legal counsel not to proceed with the appeal. The appeal to the Attorney General decision to release information is being withdrawn today, July 18, 2017.
All the information being requested and deemed public is being released to the requestors as directed by the Attorney General.
Watch last night's story above and see previous story below...
The La Vernia Independent School District is now suing the Texas Attorney General to keep from having to release documents to the News 4 Trouble Shooters. News 4 requested the records as part of its investigation into hazing allegations that rocked the community earlier this year.
This past March ten students, most of them juveniles, were arrested for alleged sexual assault in a hazing scandal at La Vernia High School. The Trouble Shooters requested employee records for teachers and coaches to see if the district knew what had been going on.
The Attorney General's Office ruled we should get the records but now the district is taking the unusual step of suing the AG, to get its ruling reversed, so it can keep the documents secret.
It was a jarring image: high school students led out of class in handcuffs. Even more disturbing were widespread allegations of sexual assault and hazing.
In the weeks following the arrests, the News 4 Trouble Shooters submitted open records requests for any termination documents, resignation letters, and exit interview notes for any teacher or coach going back to 2012.
The La Vernia ISD wanted to block the request, saying it anticipated getting sued, and records that are part of litigation can't be released.
However, the Attorney General's Office ruled the documents had to be made public, because no lawsuits had yet been filed against the district at the time News 4 requested the records.
Now an outside law firm paid by La Vernia ISD has filed a lawsuit against the AG asking a Travis County judge for a “voiding of the decision of the Attorney General's Office's ruling that the information be released."
The school district’s lawyers called the AG's decision “incorrect and contrary to applicable law”.
The district is asking that the Attorney General's Office be ordered to pay legal fees for the lawsuit.
Either way tax payers will foot the bill for the district's efforts to keep the information locked up.