La Vernia, TX — La Vernia's school superintendent denies having any prior knowledge of the disturbing allegations of sexual abuse in his district. He tells News 4 Trouble Shooter Jaie Avila he first became aware of complaints a few weeks before police started arresting students.
Dr. Jose Moreno tells me he still believes any sexually abusive conduct was limited to a relatively small number of students. And it wasn't known about or tolerated by coaches and administrators.
When asked when he first learned some misconduct might be taking place Moreno responded, “Mid-February. We received some allegations that were reported to us, and we immediately notified the authorities."
That was about a month before a police investigation resulted in the first of thirteen arrests. All are students, some are adults, and some still juveniles. They’ve been accused of sadistic hazing initiations.
One student claims fellow football players sodomized him with a flashlight. On another occasion a threaded end of a carbon dioxide tank was allegedly used.
A federal lawsuit filed by parents’ claims football coaches were made aware of one attack in 2015 but did nothing more than warn varsity players to "cut it out." The lawsuit claims "a pervasive rape culture dominated the school's football program."
When asked if a so-called rape culture existed in the athletics program Moreno answered, "I think there was an underground culture among a few individuals. And I think within those few individuals, of course the allegations have been brought forth on them, I think there was an acceptance among those few."
He added, "this is not something that we support in our school district, this is not something that our community supports."
Moreno says while the Texas Rangers conduct a criminal case, the district is doing its own investigation into whether any employees were involved.
Moreno says thus far there's no evidence of that.
When News 4 requested some employee records through the public information act, the district asked the attorney general's office for an opinion.
When the Attorney General ruled the documents should be released, the district sued the AG on appeal.
Before dropping the suit a few days later.
Moreno explained the decision to fight the release of documents this way, "we believe in transparency, so we'll always follow the proper protocol to do that, but under the circumstances right now we are under a federal lawsuit, and with that we have more constraints that we have to follow."
When asked if he thought we've seen all the arrests he responded, "I hope so. I hope that you've seen all the arrests because at this point, our community wants to continue moving forward."
Moreno says morale is high at the district and he's focused on getting the new school year off to a positive start for the district's other 3300 hundred students.
Today the civil lawsuit against La Vernia ISD was postponed.
An attorney for the parents is dealing with a serious medical issue, however they are expected to resume the case once the issue is resolved.