TEA investigates Santa Rosa ISD, says district failed to protect students’ safety, welfare

Local News

SANTA ROSA, Texas (KVEO) — The Texas Education Agency (TEA) wants to replace the entire Santa Rosa Independent School District (ISD) school board with a board of managers.

The decision comes after a state investigation shows alarming problems that date back years.

The TEA’s special investigation unit released a preliminary report earlier this year, accusing Santa Rosa ISD of failing to protect the safety and welfare of their students.

STUDENT – TEACHER RELATIONSHIP

According to the report, in the Spring of 2018, a student went to a Santa Rosa High School teacher, accusing coach Josue Cepeda of having a relationship with another student.

The teacher told high school principal Rebecca Corpus who then told former superintendent Heriberto Villareal.

According to the TEA’s investigation, none of the employees reported the incident to child protective services. They are required by law to do so.

Documents say superintendent Villarreal conducted an investigation – but found no evidence of wrongdoing and took no action against Cepeda.

The TEA states Villareal’s one-page final report had no victim or witness statements, written or recorded.

In the report, the TEA states the district couldn’t provide proof that a letter was sent notifying parents of the student named in the claim.

Less than a year later after Villareal left the district, Santa Rosa police told the interim superintendent Yolanda Chapa they received a complaint about Coach Cepeda.

The same allegations the district investigated the previous year.

Chapa referred the case to the Texas Rangers and placed Cepeda on paid administrative leave.

A year later, on May 14 coach Cepeda was arrested and charged with six counts of sexual assault of a child, one count of improper relationship between educator and student and one count of trafficking of persons.

A CULTURE OF BULLYING AND HAZING

The preliminary report conducted by the TEA, states after an initial vote to not keep Athletic Director and head basketball coach Juan Cipriano the board changed course.

The TEA says this decision was made despite the board and Cipriano being aware of complaints of bullying and hazing within the athletic program. 

The TEA’s investigation says in April of 2017 – a student identified only as “student c” was involved in an assault in the boys’ locker room at Jo Nelson Middle School.

The reports state “student c” and three others pulled down a boy’s shorts and underwear, pinned him to the floor, threw cleats at him and beat him with belts while he was punched, slapped and kicked.

The report says police investigated – and a student told police Cipriano was aware that beating athletes in the locker room was a regular occurrence.

Fast forward to February 2020 –  that same “student c” is accused of pulling down the shorts and underwear of two students during a JV  basketball practice.

The TEA report says after a parent complained – the school launched a hazing investigation.

The investigation showed coach Cipriano suspended “student c” for one game but did not take action to investigate further or resolve the problem.

Cipriano also failed to inform the administration of the incident and failed to notify parents of the victims exposed.

The TEA says Cipriano described the behavior as “just athletics.”

During the hearing to get his job back, Cipriano said he didn’t report it because the exposure of students’ genitals was not a significant act and it wasn’t repetitive.

Trustee Saldivar, Trustee Perez, Trustee Garza and Trustee Theys voted against the non-renewal and Cirprianos contract was extended for this school year.

FAILED FINGER PRINT REQUIREMENTS

In January 2020, the district self-reported to the TEA that it had failed to fingerprint all employees.

An internal audit found 25 employees had criminal offenses like theft and DWI.

The TEA’s review says Santa Rosa ISD had been out of compliance with state law since 2009.

The investigators have recommended to TEA Commissioner Mike Morath that the district’s accreditation level be lowered and to appoint a board of managers that will replace the current school board.

The attorney for the district says he has advised the district to not comment since this is still a preliminary report.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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