John Paul Hernandez was my history class teacher from 7th grade until 12th grade. Mr. Hernandez was one of my favorite teachers. Many of the things he taught me I still use today...such as note-taking skills, study skills, etc.
This is shocking & disturbing to me now, however, with hindsight being 20/20, I see all of the warning signs. He had his "favorites", but not like most teachers have "favorites". He would spend time alone with other students, and if I remember correctly he was a swimming coach at my old high school as well as the boss of the summer lifeguards at one of our city pools. Almost all of the lifeguards were his "favorites". I will not name names here for obvious reasons, but I could probably mention 4 or 5 boys from my high school class that spent A LOT of time with Mr. Hernandez. If he touched them, then my heart aches for them.
February 28, 2007
Texan Calls for Takeover of State’s Juvenile Schools
By RALPH BLUMENTHAL
AUSTIN, Tex., Feb. 27 — A long-simmering scandal over sexual abuse of juveniles at schools for youthful offenders broke into the open on Tuesday with an outraged state senator calling for a takeover of the troubled Texas Youth Commission.
At a school in West Texas, a youth commission official acknowledged at a hearing of the State Senate Criminal Justice Committee, the school’s superintendent was aware that two supervisors routinely awakened boys for late-night encounters behind closed doors in deserted offices.
The two supervisors — one of whom had been transferred from another state school after pornography was found on his work computer — were allowed to resign in 2005 without charges. One became the principal of a charter school in Midland, Tex., state officials said. The superintendent was promoted to director of juvenile corrections, a post he still holds, the youth commission confirmed.
“It’s outrageous,” said State Senator John Whitmire, chairman of the Criminal Justice Committee, who accused the commission of a cover-up.
Neil Nichols, the commission’s general counsel and new acting executive director, named on Friday after the director, Dwight Harris, retired under pressure, voiced some contrition, saying at one point, “To say I’m disappointed about that is to say the least.”
Mr. Whitmore, Democrat of Houston, was not mollified. “Why should this agency not be put in conservatorship and get a whole new management?” he asked.
He excoriated the commission board for not attending the hearing and canceled an appropriations session for the agency that had been scheduled for Wednesday.
Gov. Rick Perry, a Republican, called the revelations “absolutely reprehensible” and would not rule out a takeover, said a spokesman, Ted Royer. “The governor believes any time a very serious issue like this emerges, every option should be on the table,” Mr. Royer said.
Accusations that staff members at the West Texas State School in Pyote (pronounced PIE-oht) were sexually preying on youths there were made to the youth commission as early as December 2003, according to a timeline presented at the hearing.
The complaints did not reach the Texas Rangers until February 2005 and remained largely secret until accounts began appearing in recent weeks on the Web site of the Texas Observer and the pages of The Dallas Morning News.
The problems were widespread at the agency, which annually places some 3,000 juveniles ages 10 to 17 at the time of their felonies in 13 secure schools, senators and witnesses said.
State Senator Juan Hinojosa, Democrat of McAllen, who investigated conditions at another school in his South Texas district in 2005, said, “We found out a lot of youths are kept seven or eight months longer than required, and we want to know why.”
Mr. Hinojosa added: “If a young person refuses to have sex with a supervisor, they deduct a point and are required to stay longer.”
At another state school in Brownwood in Central Texas, he said, “A supervisor was accused of having sex with a 15-year-old juvenile” — a girl, he said later. It was turned over to the Brownwood police, he said, “with no action — it was covered up.”
Mr. Nichols, the acting director, said the commission investigated 1,300 cases of reported wrongdoing last year, including 98 cases of reported sexual abuse. In 78 of the cases, he said, staff members were fired or resigned.
“How about prosecuted?” Mr. Hinojosa asked.
Mr. Nichols did not say. But he said a “large number” of the 78 cases involved female staff members of the commission who had improper sexual contact with students, male and female.
Senators questioned Mr. Nichols about the transfer in 2003 of one supervisor, Ray Brookins, to the West Texas State School from another school for juvenile offenders at San Saba, after pornography had been found on his computer. Mr. Brookins later became assistant superintendent at Pyote and was cited by the Texas Rangers for sexual contact with juveniles there, senators said.
Another supervisor at Pyote, John Paul Hernandez, was also reported by the Texas Rangers to have engaged in sexual contact with students, senators said.
Both supervisors left the youth agency and are under investigation, said the Ward County district attorney, Randall Reynolds.
Mr. Brookins was said at the hearing to be working at a bar in Austin.
Mr. Hernandez became principal at a charter school in Midland, the Richard Milburn Academy, said Norman Hall, the school’s superintendent. The school did not know of Mr. Hernandez’s history when it hired him, Mr. Hall said, and put him on leave several weeks ago.
Mr. Hernandez did not return a call to his mobile phone.
The superintendent at Pyote, Chip Harrison, who knew of the accusations against Mr. Brookins and Mr. Hernandez and kept them on the staff, senators said, is now director of juvenile corrections for the commission, in charge of several schools.
“That’s intolerable; that’s unacceptable,” Mr. Whitmire said.
Mr. Nichols called him “one of our most experienced superintendents,” setting off a gasp from parents.
Mr. Harrison did not return a call.
Randall Chance, a former inspector general at the Pyote school and the author of a self-published book, “Raped by the State,” said abuses were often covered up. “They’re not a problem at the T.Y.C. unless you bring it up” Mr. Chance said, “and then you’re the problem.”
Stacie Semrad contributed reporting.
what an awful story ... I say throw all the guilty parties into the general population down in Huntsville .... I just hope all the victims are found and get all the therapy they need for as long as they need it, my prayers are with them all.
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